Follow-up on the IAFC and their federal grants

On April 30, 2010, we wrote a lengthy and well-researched article about the uncanny success the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has enjoyed in receiving very large grants from the U. S. Forest Service and the Department of Homeland Security for issues related to wildland fire. This surprised us, since a very small percentage of the IAFC’s efforts are devoted to wildland fire. Today we wrote a follow-up to the article, and posted it below. The original complete article is HERE.


For the past several months we have been hearing that the IAFC is extremely upset about the fact that the information in the article has been revealed. They are blindly throwing around accusations that various organizations leaked this data.

Just to set the record straight, we heard from one person that the IAFC had recently received one federal grant for several hundred thousand dollars for a wildland fire related issue. That’s all. And it turned out that the actual amount of the grant was far larger than we were told. All of the rest of the information came from the publicly available web sites listed above, plus spokespersons for the USFS and the IAFC. Every source, other than the original limited, vague, and partially correct original bit of information, is detailed and linked to in the article above. We did not file a Freedom of Information Act request with the U. S. Forest Service, nor did we see any of the results from the multiple FOIA’s that were filed with the USFS.

The fact that the IAFC is so hyper-sensitive about the information in our article becoming public, raises the question of — why are they so sensitive? To borrow a line from the Queen in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

If the IAFC has a totally clear conscience, the best advice would be transparency, rather than angrily accusing innocent bystanders of providing the information that is publicly available on the Internet.

The U.S. Forest Service could use the same advice. Why did it take Freedom of Information Act requests for them to provide some of the information about which organizations they are giving our taxpayer dollars to?

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Follow-up on the IAFC and their federal grants”

  1. Bill,

    Wildfire today is to be commended for the original April article and this incredible follow-up, that highlights IAFC’s hypersensitivity and how it is blindly throwing around accusations that various organizations leaked this information. It is a sad state of affairs for IAFC, they just need to listen and hear what many of there own members are saying about this whole issue. For over two years I have been hearing about this, it is no secret, I heard it from my local fire chief. This latest is so off the wall, it would be actually funny if it were not so sad for an organization like IAFC to carry on like this.

    I agree completely with the comments from Ken. Plus I think that the Forest Service fire leadership seems to have lost touch with reality and especially its field employees. IAFC seems to have lost touch with its organizational focus and has become this nasty, secretive and it sounds like now a very vindictive group. It is just a shame. What has happened to working together and basic respect?

    As I have said, it is no secret about IAFC and the FS; I have been hearing rumblings about how nationally the Forest Service and Department of the Interior have been dumping large sums of money to IAFC for over two years. In addition I hear from many of my FS colleagues from around the U.S. that IAFC has its representatives on just about every federal committee and group that is dealing with wildland fire and in charge of many of them, including this new Cohesive Strategy project. Is the Forest Service and Department of Interior paying for all this IAFC involvement? If so, my question is why and why has the IAFC leadership decided this is such a good deal? I understand about working together and being cooperative, but this seems a bit unwarranted and simply wrong. I personally think it is all about money and power, pure and simple.

    Why is IAFC so important to the Forest Service, what about all the other groups and organizations, well then again maybe the Forest Service is funding them as well? I for one would really like to see what all of these Forest Service and Department of Interior agreements are about, and especially whom they are with, and how many have been made, no one seems to know. Why are they so secretive and why are they being made behind closed doors. I for one would like to know what our taxpayer dollars are funding? And what amount is being taken away from the field units for this effort.

    I work for the FS and feel that we are kept in the dark on these issues. I was at a recent meeting where a staff person from the National Headquarters who is in charge of these programs was going on and on about how “he” was doing so much to foster new partnerships and bringing in new groups to improve the overall wildland fire problem. It made me sick to my stomach, this guy was so arrogant and such a pen pusher and so out of touch with the field. During the break I overheard this guy with someone in the back of the meeting room actually badmouthing people and organizations openly. My co-worker and I looked at each other as we were leaving the room and made the same exact comment to one another at the same time, what a douche.

    I also have heard about the IAFC Reno WUI meeting and the IIMT Team meeting blunder that Ken commented about in his response to the recent IAFC article. Our FS fire leaders again showing how they are so out of touch with the field, what an embarrassment. I would be interested to know if the FS and Department of Interior are funding the IAFC Reno WUI conference?

    Quid Pro Quo is an interesting thought from the comment from Emmett. It seems like it is already happening, if we would just look into it. I have heard stories of a few individuals that have retired from federal and state organizations and working for IAFC, including several former National Interagency Fire Center Fire Directors, a former US Fire Administration employee. I agree it will be interesting to see if any of the current top-level FS Fire folks find post-retirement work with the IAFC?

    Please Wildfire Today keep up your excellent work,and keep digging, this seems like the only place to find out what is really happening in the wildland fire world.


  2. Recently, most retired USFS senior officials go to work with the private sector on consulting jobs if they choose not to retire or continue work asan AD. They have mixed results and outcomes.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about anyone from the USFS upper management finding a job with IAFC or exerting undue influence: Most senior USFS folks have never been members of the IAFC, and some of the “token senior USFS members” such as Tom Harbour are not recognized as true “FIRE CHIEFS” as they have been appointed and not volunteered.

    The IAFC has approx. 40 federal wildland fire “chief officers” currently on the books… Vetted, peer reviewed, experts, volunteers, and dues paying members.

    We all wonder what BS is going on between our Board of Directors and the USFS. WE WON’T BE PAWNS!!

  3. It will be interesting to see if any of the top-level USFS Fire folks find post-retirement work with the IAFC??

    I believe that the Latin term is “Quid Pro Quo”.

  4. Bill,

    Spot on.

    As an IAFC member and regular viewer of Wildfire Today, I’d like to know what’s going on also, and especially why things have to be so secretive by the IAFC Board of Directors in their dealings with the USFS.

    I understand that the USFS upper management is messed up beyond salvaging (but has “deep pockets” and influence), but if their cancerous style is infiltrating the IAFC and the fire service at the highest levels…. the facts should be brought forward for all to see.

    This spring, both the Forest Service Chief (Tidwell) and the Fire Director (Harbour) pissed off a bunch of ICs in Reno by attending the IAFC WUI Conference, but failed to take even a few minutes to show up at the Inter-Agency Incident Management Team (IIMT)workshop or CWCG meetings going on just a few of blocks away.

    For me, it let all of us in the field know exactly where we sat in the pecking order, and what support we could expect from our “leadership”.

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I’d certainly like to know the SECRET HANDSHAKES…. or WTF they are thinking at the very least.



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