USFS appoints a person with no apparent fire experience to head CA Region Fire and Aviation

Jeanne Wade Evans
Jeanne Wade Evans. USFS photo

The U. S. Forest Service has appointed a person that has no on-the-ground fire experience listed in her bio to oversee “Fire and Aviation Management” in the California Region.

The USFS Regional Forester, Randy Moore, announced in a press release today that he has chosen Jeanne Wade Evans, the Forest Supervisor on the San Bernardino National Forest, for the position of Deputy Regional Forester for Fire and Aviation Management as well as State and Private Forestry.

According to the the press release, after she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Resources and Agriculture in 1977, Ms. Evans’ experience includes the following:

  1. Range Conservationist on a district (Arizona)
  2. District Ranger (Arizona)
  3. Natural Resource Specialist for Rangeland Stewardship (Washington, DC)
  4. Deputy Director for Forest and Rangelands (Washington, DC)
  5. Policy Specialist for Fire Management Hazardous Fuels (Washington, DC)
  6. Forest Supervisor, San Bernardino National Forest (in southern California)
  7. And now, Deputy Regional Forester for Fire and Aviation Management as well as State and Private Forestry for the Pacific Southwest Region, which is basically California.

The USFS in California has an extremely large and complex wildfire program. It would take an extraordinary person with incomprehensible brain power and skills to manage that fire program IF they have no on-the-ground fire experience or don’t know which end of a Pulaski to hold when cutting fire line. Not that a Deputy Regional Forester will need to drive a Pulaski, but if they can’t spell “ICS” or relate to what is happening out on the ground, they are liable to drive the fire program into … yes, the ground.

I worked in fire management for the USFS in southern California for 20 years. But then, the Regional fire management overhead actually had fire experience. Apparently those days are long gone.

Maybe I should be more open-minded. Has the fire program in California transmogrified so much since 1990 that a Range Conservationist is the best choice for the job?

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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.

16 thoughts on “USFS appoints a person with no apparent fire experience to head CA Region Fire and Aviation”

  1. No offense to Ms. Evans, but as a ground pounder and Engine driver, I’d hope there would be someone with some kind of line experience up for the job..

  2. Even though I am still in school getting my degree and have no experience yet. I don’t like the idea of having someone that has no fire-line experience in this position. When my Fire Tech Instructor was working for the forest service 99% of people in these types of positions had many years of fire-line experience. They had all started either on a hand crew or in the back seat of an engine.

  3. not so fast guys, have you sen her resume? she has the heart for it and the nuts and bolts only come with training and time, rather than ranting, get her back and help a girl out, see whats shes got before you write it off. she may actually know something!

  4. It seems odd that this fire crew job was not mentioned along with her other positions in the brief bio issued by the USFS yesterday. A much longer bio issued in 2005 also did not mention any on-the-ground fire experience.

  5. She has long experience with the agency.

    The bio may be missing some items.

    The appointment has been made, let her prove her ability to do or not do the job correctly.

    I am guessing that this position has a lot to do with politics, money and relations with many other agencies. Much less with direct fire fireground supervision.

    It would be nice if she at least had a redcard and qualified as a firefighter.

    There is no question that detailed knowlege of fire and extensive experience would be of great aid to anyone in this position.

    Interior Secretary Babbit kept a curent red card while in office and was sometimes out on fires digging line. I had the chance to speak with him informally and his comment was that it was very hard dirty work but he learned a great deal about what it was actually like on the line and how the fire orginization worked. He held the highest respect for firefighters.

    Let Ms.Evans get on with her job.

  6. I’m not sure that many years of actual “line” firefighting experience is really that important to do a good job in positions like this, but I still often ask myself – “would they put someone with no Range experience in charge of Range or no Rec experience in charge of Rec, etc.”

  7. I would hope she would read/study the 5100 section of the FSM as well as require all the line officers to do the same.

  8. Bill, she’s not the new F&AM Director. She’s a deputy regional forester, okay? She’s got YEARS of experience in management — and in fire. The deputy RF job is not a fire job in any way, and doesn’t require swinging a pulaski. Take a trip to CA and go meet her, then let us know what you think.

  9. Ok guys and gals. I decided to do a little digging on this so I talked with my fire tech instructor today. He said that even though she does not have the fire-line experience she is well qualified for the job do to the fact that if she listens to any suggestions that are voiced to her, and shes only the Deputy. The Deputy Regional Forester for Fire and Aviation Management has 20 plus years of fire-line experience so after hearing all this I think we should give her a chance to prove herself.

  10. Wildfire Today wrote a very mis-leading article. The Pacific Southwest Region (R5, California) has a Director of Fire and Aviation and a Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation. Both individuals have years of on the ground fire experience. They are the real leaders who handle the day to day business of managing fires and the fire personnel in California. They work for Ms. Evans. For her position, fire experience is not necessary as long as she relies on her staff. And I’m sure she will. In her previous position as Forest Supervisor on the San Bernardino NF, she let her Forest FMO (Chief) and Deputy run the fire program. Give the woman a break, and get your facts straight!

  11. The FACTS are “straight”, and were taken from the press release, which stated that she is the Deputy Regional Forester for “Fire and Aviation Management as well as State and Private Forestry”. It also said that she will “oversee Fire and Aviation Management”. My OPINION is a different issue.

  12. Personally, I feel that Jeanne Wade-Evans will do a far better job as Deputy Regional Forester for State & Private Forestry than her predecessor… even with her lack of fire management experience.

    She has shown that she can lead complex programs, as well as listen to the fire management experts and rely upon/support their decisions.

    Now that Region 5 has a strong new Fire Director (Joe Millar) and a strong Deputy Fire Director (Willie Thompson) (as well as 4 strong Asst. Fire Directors)… and a new supportive Deputy RF S&PF, things are looking somewhat better for the future of the fire program.


  13. You may of “jumped the gun” on this one, Bill. Ms. Wade-Evans does have much political experience with her career in Washington and at the Forest Supervisor level. And at the Deputy Regional Forester level, it is all politics, more so in California. If Ms. Evans makes firefighter and civilian life safety the number 1 objective of her program, then that is the best that we can expect. We hope that is the case. Sounds like she has a strong staff, well grounded in operations. Let’s give her a chance.

  14. Ms Wade-Evans has had plenty of experience as a Line Officer on the San Bernadino NF on overseeing numerous large fires including the Esparanza Fire. She is way more qualified than most all of the Forest Supervisors in Region 5 when it comes to fire. It is wonderful for her to get this position in the RO that will oversee Joe Millar and his staff.

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