Changes at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Rocky Barker has an article in the Idaho Statesman about how criticism of the organization has brought about changes. Below is an excerpt:

The harsh words from some of the surviving family members of fallen firefighters about the Wildland Firefighter Foundation weren’t easy to hear for Vicki Minor, the executive director and founder of the group that is dedicated to helping them.

I reported in February that critics and former board members said the foundation has grown too fast and had too few controls in place to ensure proper spending. But it was the view of some family members that they were treated poorly or forgotten that was tough on the Boise woman who has dedicated more than 16 years to help firefighters’ families through their grief.

Minor said this week that she and the foundation are better for the scrutiny.

“Actually, I’m grateful we had this done,” Minor said. “(This has) helped us become better at what we do, and that is taking care of wildland firefighters.”

An independent review conducted by Boise consultant Karyn Wood for the foundation’s board confirmed many of the shortcomings I reported in February. There was a lack of clear policies and there was little oversight on expenses, reporting on how they gave money to firefighter survivors and clarity about how the money they raised was spent…

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California firefighter dies during training

Inmate Firefighter Raymond Araujo suffered a heart attack while engaged in a training exercise on the Morongo Indian Reservation near Banning, California on April 13. The 37-year old firefighter succumbed to his injury after being airlifted to a base camp where he was treated by CAL FIRE and Riverside County Fire Department medics.

The incident occurred in Hathaway Canyon on the Morongo Indian Reservation near Banning, California.

Our sincere condolences go out to his family.

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Smoke from North Dakota wildfire causes pileup on interstate highway

From the AP:

BISMARCK, North Dakota — Authorities have blamed smoke from wildfires for a multiple-vehicle pileup on Interstate 29 in northeastern North Dakota that sent eight people to the hospital.

Injuries in the crash Wednesday ranged from minor to critical, the North Dakota Highway Patrol told KFGO radio. Hospital officials told WDAZ-TV early Thursday that seven people were admitted and one has been released.

Seven vehicles were involved in the crash, and two semitrailers collided nearby. It happened close to Manvel while hundreds of firefighters were working to contain multiple grass fires along a 60-mile stretch of the highway, KFGO reported.

“The reduced visibility is what caused the crashes to begin with, and people not slowing down to the conditions of the road,” Highway Patrol Trooper Ryan Mugan told WDAZ.

State transportation officials shut down the interstate from Grand Forks to the Canadian border for a time due to the smoke. The highway reopened Wednesday evening.

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New York firefighters want fire lanes maintained

Manorville fire engine

Firefighters in Suffolk County in New York say the lack of maintenance of fire lanes in forested areas hampers their ability to access wildfires. Their brush trucks are designed to crash through wooded areas but dead trees, logs, and high stumps at times prevent them from getting to a fire, or can cause them to become stuck on a stump.

Below is an excerpt from Riverhead Local:

Angry firefighters: policymakers ‘have no clue’ about dangers of battling wildfires in Flanders pine barrens

The two men driving the brush trucks that got stuck on dead trees in the Flanders brush fire Saturday are angry about the conditions on publicly-owned preserved lands in Flanders. But they’re even angrier about the statements made by government officials responsible for those conditions in the days following the small wildfire that burned 10 acres of woodlands.

On Monday morning, County Executive Steve Bellone called a press conference in Hauppauge to announce the establishment of a permanent brush truck training course on 25 vacant acres of county land in Yaphank.

“We need to…make sure that our fire personnel, as they go in to do their work, have what they need and have the training that they need to combat those wildfires,” Bellone said.

“Training is not the issue,” an incredulous and angry Flanders Fire Chief Joseph Petit said in an interview Monday evening. “The condition of the land is the issue.”

Fire lanes are so overgrown that they’re impassable (see video below) and thousands of dead oak trees — both standing and fallen — have created conditions in the forest so hazardous and so difficult to navigate that a disaster is inevitable unless immediate action is taken, Pettit said…

The video was published on 13 Apr 2015. It was shot during a wildfire in Flanders Fire District Saturday, April 11, 2015, showing the condition of county-owned preserved pine barrens, where fire lanes are obstructed by fallen dead oak trees. One brush truck got stuck on a fallen tree (broke a tie rod) and had to be towed from the scene. Location: Flanders, Suffolk County, New York.

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