Operations Section Chief explains the chronology and strategy of Little Bear fire

Little Bear Fire

The Type 1 Incident Management Team headed by Incident Commander Joe Reinarz has produced a nine-minute video about the Little Bear fire which has burned 38,116 acres in New Mexico. The only person with a speaking part is Operations Section Chief Carl Schwope who talks about the chronology and strategy while soothing acoustical guitar music plays softly in the background.

The IMTeam should be praised for making this video and giving the public a glimpse of how a fire is seen from the eyes of a firefighter. It was no small endeavor and required a lot of editing and the use of video footage and still photos from the fireline.

Mr. Schwope mentions something that was news to me. The fire started June 4 and the Forest Supervisor authorized the use of chain saws and dozers in the wilderness area. Firefighters contained it at four acres with a line around it. After “several days” of mop up, on June 7 an interior pocket of unburned fuel flared up causing some trees to ignite and torch, sending burning embers across the line. The weather on June 8 “caused the fire to make a significant run”, then it was off to the races.

Little Bear Fire
Little Bear Fire, burning operation on 532 Road, June 13, 2012, Photo by Kari Greer/USFS

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. Google+

11 thoughts on “Operations Section Chief explains the chronology and strategy of Little Bear fire”

  1. Isn’t this the same IMT that was ripped last year for doing a poor job of public info on the Wallow Fire?

  2. Y’know, this comment really underscores a huge problem I see in the IMT organization in the states. Far to often the day after transfer of command, morning briefings are basically a slag-fest on the previous team. Bull****. We’re on the same team folks.

  3. This fire was called 100% contained at several acres….initial response did not have extreme weather for the first two days….

        1. Ok well it was never called in as 100% contained despite what had been done. It was still an active fire.

  4. So let me get this right. Was it last year, or the year before, that the word came down from the Chief that photographs on smart phones, etc. (taken by JQ firefighter) “will not be posted on social media sites”….. Yet, a T-1 Team, is spending time on the day to produce their own reality show, on Vimeo???? LOVE IT! The caste system prevails…. Also love the soundtrack. All of us in wildland fire totally dig country music….. If that was sarcastic… It was meant to be.

    1. Actually, the “memo” was from Tom Harbour (2010) and not the Chief… and it was immediately challenged by Agency PIOs, Agency PAOs, Agency Safety and Risk Management Officials, and by historians/archivists who understood the need for photos/videos from the fireline.

      Mr. Harbour (a staff officer and NOT a line officer) mistakenly overstated his understanding of USDA policies…. and was shown to be wrong trying to institute his personal beliefs vs USDA commercial photography policy vs the values obtained from fireline photography.

  5. Im late getting into this but from what Bill said, they thought they had little bear licked at 4 acres:

    “the Ops Chief said it was a four-acre fire with a line around it that had been mopped up for “several days”. That easily meets the NWCG definition of “contained”. But it was not declared controlled, to my knowledge”.

    For whatever reason, the Ops Chief didn’t foresee the possibility of a blow up due to high winds or the trees crowning inside the line? He was satisfied that more resources were not necessary? In essence, that’s the tipping point of the little bear fire. Was the ops chief a local with the forest service? He was in charge before it blew up?

    1. The Ops Chief in the video was not assigned to the fire when it was 4 acres. He came in with the Incident Management Team after the fire blew up.

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