Congressional staffers have office pool to predict how many acres will burn in wildfires

Acres burned wildfire US

Since 2003 some congressional staffers who work for Senators, Congressmen, and committees, have been participating in an office pool to guess how many acres will burn in wildfires each year. The official figure is determined by the statistics kept by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, whose web site has a wealth of information about acres burned each year. We have used their historical figures on several occasions to analyze trends.

If there is a tie, which seems rather unlikely since we’re talking about 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 acres burning each year, there is a tie breaker question, according to Sarah Laskow the author at Grist who wrote the article that disclosed this office pool. That question, according to Laskow is to…

…guess how many fire-fighting planes (“fixed-wing, heavy-slurry aircraft”) will crash, become unusable, or be grounded, and how many weeks those aircraft will be out of service.

According to Laskow, Frank Gladics, a professional staffer on the Republican side of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, runs the contest.

If you have a perfect memory and are an obsessive reader of Wildfire Today, you will recognize that name, Frank Gladics. Here is what we wrote on July 29, 2011 when we covered the story about the U.S. Forest Service cancelling the contracts with the last six P3 air tankers operated by Aero Union, putting the company out of business and leaving only 11 large air tankers on exclusive use contract.

At the Aerial Firefighting Conference held in Washington, DC last May, Frank Gladics, professional staff member with the U.S. Senate energy and natural resources committee, addressed the report that some in the USFS would like to replace the aging fleet of large air tankers with 20 to 30 C-130Js at a cost of $80 to $85 million each. Gladics said funding is not available for such a massive purchase, and…

We need a more diverse fleet. . . . Go back and look at alternate aircraft, including water-scooping aircraft. Our forests, the resources and communities can’t wait another 10 years while you wait for the existing fleet to become inoperable in hopes Congress will be forced to buy you that Ferrari you want.

The USFS seems to have an irrational phobia about water-scooping air tankers in spite of receiving advice from several different expert sources, including the infamous top secret Rand report, that they should add some to the air tanker fleet.

In case you are planning on starting or entering a guess-the-acres contest, here is a chart that we had on file that shows the number of acres burned in the 50 states by year, 1960-2010.

Acres burned wildfire US

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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.

6 thoughts on “Congressional staffers have office pool to predict how many acres will burn in wildfires”

  1. While Mr Gladic’s pool on Guv is not the most intelligent operation in DC…………….

    LET’s look at the COLD HARD FACTS…..ever since 1980…the land management agencies have been looking for replacements of the the aircraft of that era. It was written up in Aviation Week and Space Technology from approx Apr 1980 thru Nov 1980. The idea of replacing airtankers is now about 40 yrs old. IF and ONLY IF the agencies were planning properly back then…..MAYBE they could afford the C130 J model if they learned how the aviation industry really worked….money, metal, and maintenance.

    The blaming of Gladics andf his office pool is merely a reflection of Agencies gone awry and trying to find their way around solving the airtanker problem. As I recall, the USFS and aviation have been around about as long as each other…..1903.

    For those of you wallowing in self pity about organizational culture and how to find the next tanker…REMEMBER this……AVIATION has evolved faster than the field of forestry…from props to jet engines..

    Now it is TIME for the Agencies to either pony up the the R&D money, FUND the program, go either contractor or GOCO…….or wait for it….let someone else do the good work and let the Agencies go back to managing the land…maybe the agencies could make an attempt at shutting up…because they, themselves, have not really found a solution to this problem, either other than grounding fleets or not extending contracts with Tanker 10 LLC or Evergreen…Suppose that had anything to do with 30 to 50K per hour operating costs? Think this industry works on pennies???

    Blaming a silly office pool on problems BIGGER is what the real facts are and it apparently hurts alot of land management types feelings when they are becoming the targets of opportunity from others even if it is a “stoooopid” joke.

    There are civilian companies such as H&P and AUC that probably had some issues….but an entire fleeet shut down this past summer and no real backup other than a possible “1 yr contract” with the BAe 146 and SEATS for fixed wing??

    When the land management agencies can donate more than 1/2 their operations budget to Boeing or Lockheed to R&D for a purpose built aircraft….do not expect any miracles for 20 -25 aircraft to be built anytime soon…..MAYBE the land management types can save the Boeing plant from shutting in Wichita, KS this year due to the war(s) and contracts winding down, huh?

  2. Never liked Frank Gladics from the first day I met with him in DC as a former rep w/ FWFSA.

    He said he was a “former Hotshot”, but to find out.. that was a LIE.

    We secured a meeting with him after his office received hundreds of emails and faxes after some previous stupid comments that he made on previous wildland fire issues.

    It never set well with me… still doesn’t.. even more now.

  3. NICE, I would like to get in on this pool also. I think acres are boring, lets spice it up. Since the Federal goverment has an phobia for using water scoopers,VLATs, and now retardant (which they think is the same as gels) begin a more exciting and devious pool. The number of homes destroyed after a wildfire escapes containment from Federal lands. I bet the staffers will like this one.

  4. What a nice feeling knowing they are playing a game that involves guessing how many people die in aircraft accidents.


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