After Action Review released for the Carr Fire

IN 2018 the fire burned 229,651 acres at Redding, California, destroyed 1,077 homes, and killed 3 firefighters and 5 civilians

Fire tornado Carr Fire
Fire tornado filmed by the Helicopter Coordinator on the Carr Fire July 26, 2018 near Redding, California.

The National Park Service has released an After Action Report (ARR) for the Carr Fire that burned into Redding, California in July, 2019. Ignited by the mechanical failure of a travel trailer, it started within the Whiskeytown–Shasta–Trinity National Recreation Area (WHIS) on National Park Service-administered lands. The fire covered 229,651 acres, destroyed 1,077 homes, and killed 3 firefighters and 5 civilians. Many of the burned structures were in Redding. It became the 7th largest fire in California recorded history.

The decision to conduct a very brief one-day ARR administered by two facilitators for this very large, complex, and deadly fire rather than a conventional-months long investigation was an interesting choice. The reason given, “Unfortunately, incidents of this complexity are becoming more of the norm than the exception, and there is not a realistic capacity within the Service for each qualifying incident to receive the traditional level of review and analysis.”

No names were used in the report and the process was designed to be non-punitive. The goal was to identify issues, successes, and recommendations  in planning, operations, administration, or management which could be addressed at the local, regional, or national level to improve future incident management.

The report uses dozens of acronyms, very few of them defined, which may not be familiar to the casual reader. A glossary would have been helpful, or defining the acronym the first time they were used.

You can download the entire 20-page report. All of the recommendations from the ARR are listed below:

  • All wildland fire management units are encouraged to develop a roster of high-quality, relief duty officers from their interagency organizations as part of their pre-season fire preparedness planning.
  • Initiate stakeholder engagement early on all incidents that demonstrate a likelihood to impact multiple jurisdictions. Early, forthright, open dialogue is critical, and was cited on this incident with contributing to the success of the IMTs response to multiple firefighter fatalities and incidents within the incident. Consistency of personnel within unified command representation has value and is a best practice worth striving for.
  • Participation in the cost-share agreement is not a mandatory prerequisite to joining a delegation of authority or leader’s intent letter to an incident management team (IMT). All primary landowners with values at risk in the fire planning area should receive consideration for inclusion in the decision making process. The transfer of DPA among federal agencies is intended to provide efficiency in fire response, but is not intended to replace agency administration on complex, long-duration incidents.
  • A future topic for discussion within the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group (CWCG) should be the subject of agency DPA versus agency ownership and how that relates to agency administration, agency representation, delegations of authority, and ultimately unified command. When feasible, a single federal IC should be delegated authority to represent all of the affected federal agencies in unified command.
  • The Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) needs to be reviewed annually at the unit level to ensure that management requirements and strategic objectives are current and applicable. Consideration should be given to ordering fire behavior analysts (FBAN), long-term analysts (LTAN), and strategic operational planners (SOPL) to help supplement the planning section within any IMT. These positions need to be well integrated with the IMT, and can assist with communicating the long-term plan for an incident to stakeholders and the public alike. The SOPL position, in particular, can be a highly effective position in bridging any gaps or inconsistencies between the agency administrator leader’s intent and operations on the fire.
  • Continue to use the right IMT for the job based on the primary responsibility area, relative risk, and anticipated complexity of an incident. The Organizational Assessment and Relative Risk modules within WFDSS and the Indicators of Incident Complexity located within the IRPG are standardized resources to help objectively determine incident complexity. Complexity and risk assessments, as well as any changes, should be documented by ICs. The CWCG should further address the issue of IMT utilization in complex multi-jurisdictional areas to help ensure efficiency of wildfire engagement statewide.
  • The NPS All-Hazard team and CAL FIRE providing employee support services (ESS) were both considered successes and other units being severely impacted by an event of this magnitude should consider doing the same. Ensure that any IMTs operating within proximity of each other are in strong communication through daily IC calls or meetings to avoid any duplication of effort or confusion to the extent possible in an already chaotic environment.
  • Expectations of the reassignment of resources needs to be communicated to the GACC early on to decrease administrative paperwork and the chasing down of resources out in the field. Local government fire engines that already have some agreement with a federal agency should be mobilized on that agreement first in preference over the secondary mobilization option provided by the Farm Bill. A mechanism for states to pay for Farm Bill engines would represent an efficiency gain.
  • There is an opportunity for the CWCG to include direction on fatality response in the CFMA during the next revision. The California Fire Assistance Agreement (CFAA) covers California local government fire response and also needs to include adequate direction on incident fatality response.
  • Efficiencies need to be built into the dispatch system in regards to contract resources that allow for contract resources to be reassigned by the GACC based upon location, availability, and incident need, and to not cycle back into the Virtual Incident Procurement (VIPR) system for reassignment.
  • In lieu of an established lend-lease program, GACCs, ICs, unit fire program managers, and duty officers, are encouraged to continue strong daily communication to solve short-term resource shortage issues and address immediate life safety threats posed by rapidly escalating incidents. Resource accountability is especially challenging in these situations and must be stressed among the coordinating entities.
  • Agencies need to continue to recognize they have differing policies and objectives. Long-term planning tools, including those available in WFDSS, should be utilized by SOPLs and LTANs and communicated to the unified IC for the respective agency. This unified IC would advocate to incorporate WFDSS and PACE modeling into the long-term strategic decision making process during the incident.
  • A pre-season SOP be developed that articulates that only one incident number be generated corresponding to the jurisdiction of the point of origin of the fire. This is would be incorporated into the LOP/Local AOP which is tiered under the CFMA.
  • It was agreed that the standard procedure should continue having PIO representation from each participating agency. The need for a joint information center should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis on all complex, multi-jurisdictional incidents.
  • Expanded discussions with FIRESCOPE and the county sheriffs within California to address consistency of evacuation procedures and communications between the 58 county law enforcement entities across California.
  • A standard SOP should be implemented, whereby only one incident number is generated according to the ownership of the origin point of the fire. This standard would be incorporated into the LOP/Local AOP which is tiered under the CFMA. This will result in clearer communication and understanding of resources ordered by the fire and from a single dispatch ordering point. In cases where a secondary incident must be created for any reason it must be correctly nested under the parent incident in ROSS and IROC to ensure proper resource statusing and accountability. Incident ownership can be transferred within these systems and should be done as early as possible if need be. Additionally, evaluate and determine best fire management dispatching practices and options for the WHIS program in light of the incident (state vs. federal). Include scenarios revolving around complex DPA and jurisdictional boundary issues in pre-season preparedness planning. Practice how this might look in terms of incident number, accounting information, single ordering point, agency administrator roles, unified command, cost share, and resource statusing and accountability.
  • Continue early engagement with partners when cost share is anticipated to efficiently come to consensus about cost apportionment early in the incident.
  • Move forward with the NPS hiring of positions to implement the interagency BAER plan.
  • Start contracting process early and coordinate use of equipment and resources.

All articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Carr Fire”.

State Foresters concerned about Administration’s desire to reduce funding for state and private forestry programs

After reviewing President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget request, the National Association of State Foresters will expand its efforts within the Beltway to illustrate the long-term and far-reaching benefits of actively managed forests and the urgent need to invest in their health and resiliency.

Pleasant Valley Prescribed Fire South Dakota
Pleasant Valley prescribed fire, South Dakota, March, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

(Press release from the National Association of State Foresters)

WASHINGTON – The nation’s 59 state and territorial foresters were disconcerted this week by a presidential budget request for FY20 that asks for significant funding cuts to state and private forestry programs, which support much-needed management on nearly two-thirds of the nation’s forests.

When President Trump’s executive order to promote forest management nationwide was released in December, we were eager to work alongside the men and women of the USDA Forest Service to address the nation’s most pressing forest threats,” said Lisa Allen, NASF president and Missouri state forester. “But the president’s budget would eliminate or cut all but one Forest Service State and Private Forestry program and reduce investments in state and family forests to just 2.5 percent of the overall Forest Service budget.”

Per the president’s budget request for FY20, funding for the Forest Stewardship program, the Forest Health Management Program on Cooperative Lands, and the State and Volunteer Fire Assistance programs would be cut by a combined $29.65 million from FY19 enacted levels. Funding for the Landscape Scale Restoration, Forest Legacy, and Urban and Community Forestry programs would be eliminated.

“More than once the Trump administration has stated its support for rural America and its commitment to managing federal forests in partnership with state forestry agencies. Now, with this budget proposal, we see a direct contradiction,” said Jay Farrell, NASF executive director. “What we know for sure is that more work needs to be done throughout the Beltway to show all the benefits forests provide – better water quality, stronger industry, healthier families, and more – every day, for every American. Because without essential investments today in our forests, we simply won’t have them tomorrow.”


More information at Wildfire Today about how the Administration’s proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2020 which begins October 1, 2019 would affect wildland fire.

Researcher finds that Native Americans ignited more fires than lightning

Data was collected in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California

A California professor’s dissertation has won a prestigious award for her work that determined fires 1,500 years ago in the Sequoia National Forest in Southern California were predominantly ignited by Native Americans rather than by lightning. Until the last 100 years or so most forests in the Western United States had far fewer trees per acre than today. Suppressing fires caused by lightning, arson, and accidents has resulted in overstocked forests that can lead to very large wildfires that threaten lives and property and are very difficult to control.

Prescribed fires can over time lead to stand densities that replicate the pre-Columbian condition, but in modern times the practice has not been widely used in the Western United States at landscape scale.

Professor Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson
Professor Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson. (Photo courtesy of Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson)

“We should be taking Native American practices into account,” said Anna Klimaszewski-Patterson, a Sacramento State assistant professor of geography, whose dissertation on the subject recently won the J. Warren Nystrom award from the American Association of Geographers (AAG).

“After all, they are stakeholders who have been here a heck of a lot longer than we have,” she said. “We should probably be looking at their traditions and incorporating them” into forest management.

Klimaszewski-Patterson uses paleoecology – the study of past ecosystems – as well as environmental archaeology and predictive landscape modeling in her current work, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. She won the Nystrom award after presenting her paper at the AAG’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Using computer models and pollen and charcoal records to track changes in the forest over time, she has found that forest composition dating back 1,500 years likely was the result of deliberate burning by Native Americans, rather than natural phenomena such as lightning strikes. Those forests featured wide open spaces, resembling parks.

More information about the research.

Wildfire burns area scheduled for prescribed fire the next day

Virtually the entire 274-acre project area burned

Tolleston 1 Fire Indiana Dunes National Park
Tolleston 1 Fire in Indiana Dunes National Park, April 12, 2019. Photo: NPS Great Lakes Fire Management Zone.

A wildfire Friday in northwest Indiana burned virtually the entire area that was going to be burned today in a prescribed fire.

The fire was reported at 4:30 p.m. CDT in the Tolleston Dunes area in Indiana Dunes National Park west of County Line Road between highways 12 and 20. It was within the area that had been prepped for a prescribed fire. Since firelines had been established the blaze was easier to battle than your typical wildfire. However strong winds Friday afternoon were a factor. A nearby weather station recorded 29 percent relative humidity and winds out of the south at 18 to 28 mph with 30 to 40 mph gusts.

The forecast for Sunday calls for 34 degrees and almost an inch of precipitation consisting of a rain/snow mix.

Micah Bell, Fire Information Officer for the Great Lakes Fire Management Zone, said virtually the entire 274-acre project area burned before it was contained by the 15 firefighters at 9 p.m. Friday.

Tolleston 1 Fire Indiana Dunes National Park
Tolleston 1 Fire in Indiana Dunes National Park, April 12, 2019. Photo: NPS Great Lakes Fire Management Zone.

Obviously the planned prescribed fire was cancelled. Firefighters are mopping up at the blaze today.

Tolleston 1 Fire Indiana Dunes National Park
Firefighters mopping up the Tolleston 1 Fire in Indiana Dunes National Park, April 13, 2019. Photo: NPS Great Lakes Fire Management Zone.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was upgraded to a National Park February 15, becoming the first National Park in Indiana.

British Columbia may expand firefighter occupational disease coverage to wildland firefighters

Minister calls firefighting dangerous, says it can have severe impacts to physical and mental health

Massachusetts firefighters British Columbia
Firefighters from Massachusetts board an aircraft on the way to the Elephant Hill Fire near Kamloops, British Columbia. Photo by Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The United States government does not have a presumptive disease policy for their 15,000 federal wildland firefighters, but British Columbia is seeking to expand their program.

From The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:


Firefighters who have battled British Columbia wildfires, fire investigators, and fire crews working for Indigenous groups will be eligible for greater access to job-related health compensation under legislation introduced Thursday.

Labour Minister Harry Bains tabled amendments to the Workers Compensation Act that extends occupational disease and mental health benefits to more people who work around fires.

The proposed changes will expand cancer, heart disease and mental health disorder presumptions to include the three other job categories, because Bains says those workers are often involved in the traumatic issues related to fires.

Presumptive illnesses faced by firefighters are recognized under the act as conditions caused by the nature of the work, rather than having firefighters prove their issue is job related to receive supports and benefits.

Bains says the government expanded the presumptive job-related conditions last year to include mental-health disorders for police officers, paramedics, sheriffs, correctional officers and most urban firefighters. He says firefighting is dangerous work that can have serious impacts on an individual’s physical and mental health.

“They will enjoy the same coverage as the other firefighters — the first responders — receive as part of giving them certain cancer protections, heart disease and injuries and mental health,” Bains said during a news conference after the legislation was introduced.

“These steps are very necessary to ensure our workplaces are the safest in the country.”

13 videos about fire shelter deployments on wildland fires

fire shelter
Fire shelter, with one side removed to show the position of a firefighter. USFS.

Fire shelters are small foldable pup tent-like fire resistant devices that a wildland firefighter can unfold and climb into if there is no option for escaping from an approaching inferno. Many firefighters have used the devices successfully, but others have been killed inside them.

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center has put together a playlist of 13 videos about deployment of shelters. The next time you have an extra three or four hours, check it out.

Below is a screenshot of the list:

fire shelter video
Playlist of videos about fire shelter deployments. WFLLC.