Glenn Beck: "…people who hate America… are losing their homes in a forest fire today."

Harris fire Mount MiguelYou may have heard of Glenn Beck. He appears on CNN Headline News and also has a nationally-syndicated radio show. I rarely agree with anything he says, but I just found out that on his October 22 radio show, while the Witch Creek, Harris, and other fires were burning in southern California, he said:

“I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.”

Both fires started in eastern San Diego county and were pushed by strong Santa Ana winds into the outskirts of San Diego. In the Harris and Witch Creek fires, a total of 1,246 homes burned, 7 people were killed, and a CalFire engine crew was entrapped and seriously burned.

Beck contradicted himself several times, but his rationale is that since California is predominantly a Democratic state, and since he believes that Democrats “hate America”, that the homes of people who hate America were burning. Of course Beck is an idiot, but to say this while over 1,000 homes are burning and 500,000 residents are being evacuated is the height of irresponsibility, insensitivity, and stupidity.

According to Media Matters, Beck has also said

“it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims’ families” and referred to Hurricane Katrina survivors as “scumbags”

(photo is of the Harris Fire burning on Mount San Miguel east of San Diego, October 23, 2007; from Wikipedia)

Article About Current Issues in Wildland Fire

There is an excellent article by Richard Manning about some of the issues we are currently facing in wildland fire. Manning interviewed two well-known figures in the Northern Rockies area, George Weldon, Deputy Director for Fire and Aviation for the USFS in the Northern Rockies Region, and Orville Daniels, retired Forest Supervisor of the Lolo National Forest.

These two men show remarkable insight and candor in describing fire management strategy… what works and what doesn’t. Weldon is quoted as saying:

“[The Ahorn] was a fire we went after very aggressively,” Weldon says. “We put in a couple loads of smoke jumpers, a hotshot crew, aviation assets. We spent a lot of money on that fire. We exposed a lot of folks. We crashed a helicopter. We had a shelter deployment on that fire. Despite all that, we influenced that fire very minimally, and we spent $18 million trying.”

Weldon goes on to say:

“I think it is disrespectful to tell people we are going to protect their structures when we don’t have the capability,” he says. “What’s different is that the environment we are living in and working in is going to demand that we look at it differently. I don’t think we have a choice.”

A big thanks to Dick Mangan for the tip on this article.

OSHA and U.S. Forest Service Reach Settlement About Esperanza Fire

Esperanza fire OverviewThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Forest Service have reached a settlement which modifies some of the “serious violations” that OSHA found after the Oct. 26, 2006 fire in which the five members of San Bernardino National Forest Engine 57 were killed during a burn over.

According to the Press-Enterprise:

“Under the settlement, two of the six violations were withdrawn and the four others were amended, said Jason Kirchner, public affairs specialist for the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service.

Kirchner said the main issue for fire officials was that OSHA initially viewed some firefighting guidelines as safety rules that had been broken.

“We felt it was an incorrect assessment,” Kirchner said. “They were not intended to be unbreakable rules. They are tools to help evaluate the situation and make decisions.”

Kirchner said the remaining four serious violations have been addressed in the Esperanza Accident Review Board Action Plan that was devised by the Forest Service.

The serious violations showed the fire agency did not “furnish places and conditions of employment that were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm …”

It noted that instructions from the branch director were either “poorly communicated, or misunderstood” by firefighters. Firefighters were not equipped with maps to familiarize themselves with the area and terrain. The report also noted that the firefighters were ordered to provide structure protection and ended up directly in the path of the strong winds and fire, resulting in the fatal burnover of their fire engine.”

The crew of Engine 57: Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, 43, of Idyllwild; Jess McLean, 27, of Beaumont; Jason McKay, 27, of Apple Valley; Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, of San Jacinto; and Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley.

(photo is from the official USFS/CalFire Factual Report)

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UPDATE November 12, 2013:

Esperanza Fire Factual Report, and the USDA Office of Inspector General’s Report on the fire.

Another "Blue Ribbon Task Force" Makes Recommendations in California

concrete Homes signThe second Blue Ribbon Commission Task Force in California since the fires of 2003 presented it’s report yesterday about how to deal with large wildland fires in the state. The recommendations include more engines, more aircraft, more firefighters, fire safe construction, and better systems for real time communications and intelligence. Many of these were in the report following the 2003 fires but were not implemented because of the state’s fiscal problems.

Click here to download the 106-page report (788 KB).

Here is how the LA Times began their story on the report:

Three months after massive brush fires burned hundreds of homes across Southern California, a blue-ribbon task force on Friday made dozens of recommendations aimed at improving the response to large-scale blazes.

But many of the proposed measures are similar to those made after the devastating wildfires of 2003 — and many of those were never implemented because there was no money available.

And because the state is in a fiscal crisis, it remains unclear whether the new recommendations will fare any better. Several reports over the last decade have said California needs to increase the number of firefighting aircraft as well as boost the number of firefighters.

(photo by Bill Gabbert; taken in 2004 in Harbison Canyon, the area of the 2003 Cedar Fire east of San Diego.)

NWCG and U.S. Fire Administration Announce Wildland Fire Training Crosswalk for Structural Firefighters

From a press release issued yesterday by the U.S. Fire Administration:

“Emmitsburg, MD- Today, the U.S. Fire Administration in cooperation with the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, announced a new aid to help local and rural firefighters identify training equivalencies and needs for effectively fighting wildfires that threaten residential areas. The Skills Crosswalk identifies critical wildland firefighting skills that structural firefighters need to be safe and effective when making an initial attack on a wildland fire in their jurisdiction, or when working with state and federal wildland firefighter agencies.

“Our nation’s firefighters already have the necessary skills for fighting fires in all structures in a community,” said U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade. “Structural training does not however always address the critical wildland fire suppression techniques which differ from structural firefighting techniques. The new Skills Crosswalk highlights the differences in order for structural firefighters to be able to address wildland fire suppression challenges.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2006 report, in every area of the nation rural development is expanding into wildland areas. Since the 1980’s, the rural population has more than doubled, with 140 million people now living in rural areas. As a result, rural and volunteer firefighters increasingly manage fire in the Wildland/Urban Interface.

The new Skills Crosswalk provides a performance-based methodology and a learning resource guide for qualified structural firefighters to develop wildland firefighting knowledge and skills in a focused and time-efficient format. This methodology will assist structural firefighters with wildland skills in working more safely and effectively on initial and extended attack operations and enhance cooperative firefighting efforts with neighboring jurisdictions and federal wildland firefighters.

For more information, visit the Wildfire section of the U.S. Fire Administration’s Web site.”

A big thank you to Greg Greenhoe for the tip on this.

"One Foot in the Black" Benefits Wildland Firefighter Foundation

One Foot In The BlackKurt Kamm, “after studying fire science and spending three years with L.A. County Fire Department and CalFire crews”, has written a book about wildland firefighters. “One Foot in the Black” is available on the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF) web site. The proceeds from the book go to the WFF. I have not read the book, but the WFF is a wonderful organization that assists wildland firefighters and their families when they have experienced a serious line of duty injury or death. If you have read the book, leave a comment.

Here is an excerpt from a review of the book.

“After the gig ends, Greg drives south to Malibu, daring to survive the notorious four week training camp required to join a fire-suppression unit with the LA County Fire Department. Life in the academy is brutal, but it is here that Greg begins to discover the family he never had: fellow trainee Luis Zambrano, who dreams of a better life for his wife and newly born child; Hector Wells, a rootless Native American with years of service as a firefighter; and Capt. Tom Bratton, a gruff yet kindhearted superior who takes a liking to Greg, offering home-cooked meals and sage advice. An unpredictable wildfire in the middle of the dry season, raging over the hills north of Los Angeles, gives Greg plenty of firsthand experience but tests his resolve and dedication to the profession.”