You can’t fight fires on the cheap

The federal government is reducing the numbers of large air tankers and helicopters on exclusive use contracts. Air tankers are being cut from 20 to 13, and Type 1 helicopters over the last year have been reduced from 34 to 28. Cutting back on these firefighting resources is not going to enhance our ability to suppress new fires before they become large, dangerous, and expensive.

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+

6 thoughts on “You can’t fight fires on the cheap”

  1. Aggressive all out Initial attck is where it’s at However many of today’s elected representatives and wildland fire bureaucrats don’t get it . Got to spend smart money upfront fighting wildfires

    1. Eric has it right. Carl, Hunter and Bill Gabbert have completely missed the mark.
      Our CHETCO BAR MEGAFIRE started out as a less than 1/4 acre fire. 192,000 acres and $80+ million dollars later NATURE extinguished the fire. Do you think the FS could have spent $40 million on the 1/4 acre fire and put it out at 1/4 acre or 100 acres or 1000 acres? thus saviving $40 million dollars.
      Money and contract planes are only issues when the FS USES FIRE instead of extinguishing fires and foolishly lets them get out of control! FS o wins 3 losses in the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest.

  2. The Administration, at the time, invaded Iraq in order to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. The wanted to do it “on the cheap.” Get in fast, get it done, and get out. We know what happened and how (incredibly) much more that war has cost this country. In fire parlance, we had a good initial attack but no containment, control, mop up, or habitat restoration. There is no “on the cheap” way of fighting wars, or fires. The parallels here are not same but in both cases, the government wants to do a critical aspect on the cheap. The parallel is that it will cost more in the long run.

    1. I agree Carl, and like wars, prolonged campaigns lead to more injuries and even deaths. Those don’t always get figured into the cost of the fight.

  3. Once again I will use the US Forest Service own words to condemn them.

    On July 28, 2017 at 07:41 PM, the Curry Pilot published an article titled;
    “Chetco Bar fire continues its slow burn.” Here is the URL –

    And here is an excerpt from that article;

    According to Rogue River/Siskiyou National Forest Incident Commander Monty Edwards, the area in which the fire burns is designated wilderness and falls under Minimal Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST) guidelines for fire suppression.

    “This means we must manage the fire with key objectives and strategies in mind,” Edwards explained. “Fire management now means managing fire ‘with time’ as opposed to ‘against time.’ The objective of putting the fire dead-out by a certain time has been replaced by the need to make decisions to consider the land, resources and incident objectives, and decide the appropriate management response and tactics that result in MINIMAL COSTS and damage.”

    Monty Edwards was the FIRST Incident Commander on the Chetco Bar Fire. Bob Houseman was the second. Houseman is from Arizona, and until his Chetco Bar Fire assignment, he had never stepped foot in Oregon. Someone told him about our ‘Chetco Effect’ – HIGH winds, HIGH temperatures and single-digit humidity – and that if it DID occur, they’d be in for one hell of a battle. At a public meeting here in Brookings, Oregon, Houseman was quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as a Chetco Effect.”

    To put all this is war parlance, the Forest Service tactics were to 1) set up a 6-mile in every direction perimeter around ‘the enemy’, and 2) – learn NOTHING about the enemy or the local condition, and 3) – sit back, wait and do NOTHING. If you WANT to lose a war, that’s the best game plan of all, and you WILL lose every single battle, just as the Forest Service’ record over the past 30 years of 0 for 3 in the Rogue River/Siskiyou National Forest proves.

    If they were military tacticians and they lost a REAL war, because of their tactics, ALL the generals and ALL the field commanders would have been court martialed and dishonorably discharged.

    In regard to firefighting and losing a forest, every one of those knuckled-headed Forest Service managers should be summarily FIRED! They don’t have a clue in the world what they’re doing and their tactics are completely flawed. “Minimal Costs” is NOT a tactic. It’s suicide, where fighting fires is concerned, and the results speak for themselves.

  4. Dr Bill G. is correct in his prescription for Wildfires . [ the other Bill is misinformed].
    The assertion “that you cannot fight wildfires on the cheap” is 100% ,correct [ Bill G.]. Accordingly , the article about cutting the number of Fixed wing aircraft and helicopters points out the serious miscalculations by the USFS .We should be INCREASING THE NUMBER OF LATS /MAFFS/HELOS ,ETC,not decreasing !
    Please keep up the flow of useful ,insightful information ,Bill G.

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