75% turnover in NIMO Incident Commanders

NIMO Incident Commanders

Updated November 4, 2012

NIMOIn recent months there has been a 75 percent turnover in the Incident Commander positions on the four National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) Teams.

NIMO Incident Commanders

And in one respect there has been a 100 percent turnover temporarily, because Bob Houseman was not available to take his Phoenix NIMO team on their current assignment to Hurricane Sandy because he is teaching a class, so the acting IC on the Boise team, Kleinman, went with the Phoenix team to New York City.

The 2012 National Mobilization Guide requires that Type 1 Incident Commanders respond with their team on national assignments:

Type 1 IMTs will be considered unavailable for a National assignment if the primary Incident Commander is unavailable or it is necessary to have more than two (2) substitutes to fill Command/General Staff positions. The Deputy Incident Commander may be allowed to take the team with Geographic Area Multi-Coordinating Group (GMAC) approval. An IMT that is not available for a National assignment will be listed as unavailable on the national rotation list.

The National Mobilization Guide appears to place NIMO and conventional Type 1 teams in the same category for most of the guidelines, so the above most likely applies to both types of teams. However we checked with Robin Cole, the US Forest Service NIMO manager, who said she had never heard of this rule. In fact, she said, they “…normally have 5 fully qualified Type 1 ICs and two Type 1 IC trainees. Since the teams don’t have a Deputy IC position those other qualified ICs get used as the back-up IC at times.”

It appears that there is turmoil in the ranks of the NIMO teams. The Boise team has been deactivated because the IC and Planning Section Chief positions are vacant. NIMO teams are very different from conventional Type 1 incident management teams which are comprised of individuals who only work with the team when it has been dispatched to an incident. These Type 1 teams usually respond with 30 to 50 people, or more.

NIMO teams only have seven positions and they work full-time on the team, even when they are not assigned to an incident. The positions are not only positions on a team, but they are jobs, filled much like any other job in the US Forest Service, which hires, pays, and manages the NIMO teams. If a person transfers out of a NIMO job, then that position is vacant on the team.

Usually a person in a position on a conventional team remains on the team at least until the end of the fire season, or until the end of a longer commitment. If their regular job changes through a promotion or a transfer, they usually stay on the team until the end of the season.


The web site for the NIMO teams has not been updated in a while. Ms. Cole told us that they don’t have direct access to edit or revise the site. They are working on moving it to a different address so that they will have more control.


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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.

One thought on “75% turnover in NIMO Incident Commanders”

  1. I worked on two different fires this season that were managed by NIMO teams. I was impressed with their organization and their focus on safety.


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