Are you FireFit?

By Bequi Livingston

Fitness is defined as, “the body’s ability to perform physical activity without distress or injury”. Although most people rarely engage in arduous physical activity as part of their daily jobs, wildland firefighters know that physical fitness plays an important role in our personal wellness and job performance. It’s a proven fact that by incorporating a balanced fitness program into our daily work life, we enhance our health and safety, while mitigating our risk of injury and illness and increasing our ability to do work safely.

Having said that, fitness continues to be one of the most important components of a balanced wellness program. Like it’s counterparts which include nutrition and stress management, fitness has a life of its own especially when if comes to the job performance of wildland firefighters. According to Dr. Brian Sharkey in his book, “Fitness and Work Capacity 2nd edition”, “for prolonged arduous work, fitness is the most important determinant of work capacity (the ability to accomplish production goals without undue fatigue, and without becoming a hazard to oneself or coworkers)”.

FireFit, an interagency wildland firefighter fitness program, was created with the intent to provide the interagency wildland fire community with a comprehensive, easy-to-follow, fitness program with the ultimate goal of improving firefighter safety and health and reducing injuries. This unique program provides a basic format for a well balanced fitness program that can be augmented as local levels see fit. Program success will rely on management support at every level as well as individual’s motivation and participation.

The FireFit task group includes representation from the major Federal wildland fire agencies combined with each primary wildland firefighting resource (hotshots, smokejumpers, helitack, engines); as well as subject matter experts (e.g., exercise physiologist and fitness specialist). Due to the efforts of this task group, and support provided through FFAST; the task group was able to develop a successful program and a website to provide the program information:

FireFit incorporates three specific modules that address pre-season, fire-season, and post-season fitness. Each module is unique as it provides a basic fitness program ‘framework’, specific for each season that will enable the wildland firefighter to develop a balanced and consistent fitness program while incorporating all the essential components of fitness. The modules can easily augment existing fitness programs to encourage consistency and safety and encourages year-round fitness, injury mitigation, and promotes wellness.

FireFit continues to lead the way when it comes to wildland firefighter fitness while addressing other issues including: mental fitness, team building, injury prevention, core stability and developing a mental checklist. The FireFit task group corresponds regularly to provide updates to the website including the most current and relevant information for the wildland fire community. We invite you to visit our website and welcome comments and questions.

Bequi is the Regional Fire Operations Health and Safety Specialist for the U.S. Forest Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The photo of Bequi was taken by Bill Gabbert at the IAWF Safety Summit in Pasadena, California in April, 2006.

Update on fire training certificates forgery

On November 24 Wildfire Today told you about David Monington, who was:

…indicted last week in federal court in Rapid City, SD on two counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.

The indictment alleges he forged about 14 signatures of South Dakota firefighting officials in an attempt to gain certification from the National Wildfire Suppression Association. The documents fraudulently attest to his training and experience as a firefighter.

“A number of the printed names and signatures of certifying officials were misspelled, while others were followed by incorrect listings of the certifying officials’ titles,” the indictment states.

Monington also was arrested in Miles City late last year on theft charges related to his fire business.

The Associated Press has an update on the case, saying that Monington pleaded not guilty:

RAPID CITY, S.D.; U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley says a former South Dakotan accused of claiming he had firefighter qualifications when he actually did not has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud and mail fraud.

Prosecutors accuse 31-year-old David Monington of sending or receiving documents containing falsified signatures of high-ranking South Dakota state firefighting officials and others. Jackley says Monington was trying to convince the National Wildfire Suppression Association that he had certain qualifications so he could be certified as a firefighter instructor.

But the federal indictment says a number of the printed names and signatures of certifying officials were misspelled, while others had incorrect titles of the officials.

The maximum penalty for a conviction of both charges is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

No trial date has been set.

Follow-up on Oklahoma fatality

On Sunday we covered the January 3 fatality in Oklahoma involving the father and son firefighters who collided head-on in dense smoke, killing the father, John C. Myers of the Wesley Fire Department. Our hearts go out for the families and the Wesley Fire Department as they try to process this tragedy.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight one could say that every accident is preventable, but this incident has provoked a great deal of behind the scenes discussion. If there is a formal investigation other than that conducted by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, they will attempt to determine what factors may have contributed, such as speed, road surface, visibility, condition of drivers, values at risk, pressure to quickly suppress the fire, skill, training, and experience of the drivers, the vehicles, communications, fire behavior, human factors, or the fact that none of the victims used seat belts.

The McAlester News-Capital has more information about Mr. Myers and the accident:

Fallen firefighter was always there to help his neighbors
By James Beaty
Senior Editor

He’s being remembered as a hero.

John C. “J.C.” Myers, 61, of rural Pittsburg, died Saturday in a head-on collision while driving a fire truck on a smoke-covered road during a wildfire in the rural Wesley community in Atoka County.

Myers served as a volunteer firefighter with the rural Union Chapel Fire Department, which is just across the Pittsburg County line from Wesley. The pickup he drove and a pickup driven by his son, Juston Myers, 31, collided, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The fire covered 226 acres before it was contained and resulted from an undetermined cause, according to fire officials.

Some of those who knew Myers remember him as a remarkable man.

“J.C. was the type of guy who that loved people,” said Kiowa Fire Chief M.A. Danley. “He was real dedicated.”

Donna Danley, who is married to M.A. Danley, also knew Myers.

“J.C. was a good man, a good person,” she said. “He was always helping the community.”

Pittsburg Assistant Fire Chief Ronnie Rice had been among the first to arrive at the scene. His son, Clayton Rice, was a passenger in Juston Myers’ pickup and had been injured in the crash. The two were on their way to help fight the fire when the collision occurred, Ronnie Rice said.

Following the accident, Clayton Rice was transported to the McAlester Regional Health Center, where he was reported in good condition, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

Ronnie Rice said his son is recovering, but will likely have surgery and may be transferred to a Tulsa hospital.

Rice said he had grown up with J.C. Myers.

“He was as likable a fellow as you ever come across and he’d help anybody,” Rice said.

“He was really dedicated and highly respected.”

In addition to the personal loss to Myers’ family and friends, his firefighting abilities will also be missed.

“It will be not only a great loss to his fire department, but to ours,” Rice said. Because fire departments in the area answer each other’s calls for assistance, firefighters from different departments often battle blazes side-by-side.

To help keep firefighters safer, the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant plans to hold a seminar in March in conjunction with Oklahoma State University, said Don Kapps, who is the fire chief at McAAP, as well as the fire chief of the Savanna Volunteer Fire Department. It will cover safety skills and techniques when battling fires, including wildfires.

Sometimes more than skill is needed.

Many times, volunteer firefighters don’t have the same quality of protective clothing and other gear used by full-time professional firefighters, even though they must face the same dangers, Capps said on Monday.

Other dangerous situations can result from volunteer firefighters using converted military vehicles to haul water in to fight grassfires or other wildfires, Capps said.

Such vehicles often don’t have the proper baffles in a tank, Capps said, referring to chambers in a tank which can keep a heavy load of water from shifting too rapidly. Many times the water tanks used now by volunteer firefighters are bought commercially from a store and are similar those made for farm or ranch use.

Capps said he and the other volunteer firefighters do the best they can with the equipment they have.

Wildfire Today, now on Facebook

In an effort to provide more options to keep up with what’s happening in the world of wildland fire, we have expanded Wildfire Today onto Facebook. Our page can be found HERE, or you can click on the Facebook icon on the right side of this page. If you are already signed in to Facebook, just search for Wildfire Today; it should be the #1 result.

This blog site will continue to be our primary site, but the Facebook page offers some additional features. Anyone can view the Facebook page and read the posted comments and discussions, but if you are a Facebook member and become a “fan” of the Wildfire Today page, you can also:

  • Post pictures and videos.
  • Leave messages or comments on the page (known as the “wall”).
  • Participate on the discussions board (much like a forum) or post questions and answers.

Our posts here will be automatically copied once a day onto the Facebook page, but the embedded hyperlinks and photos will not be transferred.

As the page grows and people leave messages and become “fans”, it will expand our wildland fire community. You will become familiar with other wildland fire personnel who have similar interests. More and better communication is always a good thing.

George Bush will be missed (sort of)

In one sense, in a very limited sense, we will miss George Bush….and his “Bushisms”. Entire books have been written about them. Here are a few choice quotes:

“I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.” — September 2000, explaining his energy policies at an event in Michigan.

“Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?” — January 2000, during a campaign event in South Carolina.

“They misunderestimated the compassion of our country. I think they misunderestimated the will and determination of the commander in chief, too.” — Sept. 26, 2001, in Langley, Va. Bush was referring to the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” — Aug. 5, 2004, at the signing ceremony for a defense spending bill.

“Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.” — Sept. 6, 2004, at a rally in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

“Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech.” April 16, 2008, at a ceremony welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to the White House.

“I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office.” — June 26, 2008, during a Rose Garden news briefing.

“This thaw — took a while to thaw, it’s going to take a while to unthaw.” Oct. 20, 2008, in Alexandria, La., as he discussed the economy and frozen credit markets.

Challenges for the U.S. Forest Service

The High Country News has an article titled: “Up in smoke: Obama administration will inherit a beleaguered Forest Service”. Here is an excerpt.

…A feeling of futility, made worse by interference from George W. Bush’s political appointees, has driven many employees to either bide their time or leave altogether, Iverson says. The agency is “pretty much demoralized and cowering in the shadows. There are almost no people in the higher office of the Forest Service that will stand up to the powers that be.”

Beginning in 1990, Gregory Brown, program director of environmental studies at Central Washington University, conducted three surveys of Forest Service employees and their attitudes about their work. Workforce morale is currently at its lowest, Brown says. The culprits include workforce reductions — which further stress remaining employees, who now have to do multiple jobs — ambiguous operating procedures and the shift of cash away from management programs to firefighting work.

Whether the issue is energy development or roadless lands, the Bush administration has pressured federal employees, including those within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, NOAA Fisheries and Environmental Protection Agency, to bow to the needs of industry and even subvert environmental regulations — much to the detriment of morale. For the Forest Service, which was already struggling when Bush took office, the last eight years have been particularly hard.


Forest Service employees were also whacked by two Bush administration initiatives: The competitive outsourcing initiative, which would have privatized about two-thirds of the agency’s workforce, and the consolidation of personnel offices to Albuquerque, N.M.

The outsourcing initiative was cut short, but beginning three years ago, personnel employees from regional and field offices were faced with the decision to either relocate or leave their jobs. Rather than alleviate administrative tangles, the consolidation has spawned new complications: All employees must now deal with their own paperwork — related to travel, for example, or new hires — or else run it through the Albuquerque office, which Stahl says has become a “black hole” thanks in part to a poorly designed computer system. And while an estimated 800 employees work there, no one could answer HCN’s questions about current employment and attrition numbers. Instead, the requests ended up being routed through Washington, D.C., and an office in Arkansas.

“Those are the types of day-to-day incompetencies of the Bush administration that were driven by ideology,” says Stahl. “Neither (initiative) proved to be better or cheaper, and both were incredibly devastating to the workforce.”