Incident Management Teams are receiving COVID-19 assignments

Area Command, Type 1, Type 2, and NIMO teams

Coronavirus Response graphic

At least eight interagency Incident Management Teams have been deployed to work on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These are the teams that usually are assigned on wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, but can adapt to manage many different kinds of planned or unplanned incidents, organized under the Incident Command System.

As we reported earlier, three Area Command Teams were given assignments on March 17 to develop protocols and wildfire response plans for maintaining dispatching, initial attack, and extended attack capability. The plan was for the personnel to work remotely, rather than assemble in one location. The teams will be working on plans for the following geographic areas:

  • AC Team 1, Tim Sexton: Southern, Great Basin, & Northern Rockies.
  • AC Team 2, Joe Stutler: Rocky Mountains, Northwest, & Alaska.
  • AC Team 3, Scott Jalbert: Southwest, and both Northern and Southern California.

Two National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) teams have also received assignments:

Two IMTs were activated in the Northwest Geographic Area:

  • Type 1 NW Team 2, Rob Allen, has been assigned to Washington State Emergency Operations Center, providing complexity analysis, risk assessments and short/long-term planning guidance.
  • Type 2 NW Team 13 , Brian Gales, has been assigned to the Spokane Regional Health District, Washington, assisting with strategic planning and building capacity.

There are reports that other teams have been assigned in Oregon from the State Fire Marshal’s office and the Department of Forestry.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

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.

8 thoughts on “Incident Management Teams are receiving COVID-19 assignments”

  1. The Area Command Teams (ACTs) are comprised of a mix of personnel from a number of different areas of experience. I’m unsure whether these remain regularly rostered or if the decision about who was assigned to what team was made in the eleventh hour as the team was ‘dispatched.’ From what Wildfiretoday reported previously it is likely these ACTs are rolling stacked since they are dispatched so infrequently, so many folks are filling ‘trainee’ positions which helps distribute the workload. As it has also been mentioned many times over, these teams are teleworking at the moment. ACTs are dissimilar from traditional IMTs in that they are typically comprised of various specialists, such as aviation specialist, environmental specialist, hazmat specialist, etc. I would speculate that this is likely not pulling resources away from IMTs right now.

    As someone had proposed earlier in the comments, I do not believe it would be effective to dispatch a single NIMO to evaluate the situation for the entire nation. Different regions are going to have different logistical needs, challenges, etc., and dispatching one team per two or so regions allows the teams to focus on the specific needs of each region. When you consider what California may need this coming fire season versus what Idaho might need, there are some glaring differences. Between regions there are tremendous differences in fuel types, WUI, soil types, aviation resources, jurisdictional boundaries, the list goes on and on. I think the current dispatching of teams will be effective in ensuring there are fewer hiccups as the season begins.

    As for those concerned about the need for IMTs in a fire season that is quickly approaching, we’ve only dispatched 3 ACTs, two NIMOs, and two IMTs for a total of seven teams. I’m sure that there are still plenty of IMTs available and the current dispatching of resources is NOT contributing to a drawdown of resources. Even if that was the case, this may end up being a season where you have to run what you’ve brung and some folks are going to have to ‘play up’ so to speak.

    All fire personnel and IMTs are trained in all risk management. While we are primarily fire, our skills and qualifications can be adapted to any number of all risk incidents. While the dispatching of teams may seem out of the norm to some people, this is what our management strategy was designed to do. I think that the argument that we should be holding down resources while we wait for the ‘big one’ or to prevent cumulative fatigue is a poor argument. We have teams now, let’s put them to use. If the need arises to reassign them to a different incident we can evaluate those situations as they come up. Fire specific IMTs are probably the most experienced management teams at the country based on how frequently they get used, I have confidence that they will be able to do good work to ensure that we have a safe and successful fire season.

  2. As a “forestry technician”. I’m curious how IMT teams that can’t even take care of us when we have poison oak or a normal issue are gonna have a real plan for a pandemic and wildfire response.

    How are they gonna get protective gear when hospitals can’t even get it?

    Exposure and quarantine protocol?

    OWCP doesn’t even help/support when it’s a real work injury. Let alone “covid”

    Fire barracks where you have seasonal showing up from all over the country sharing rooms…

    And I could go on.

    Hopefully the come up with some decent plans and support for us “forestry technicians”.

    Stay safe all!

  3. This is what the National guard is for or reserves, were heading into fire season. What are the IMT’s going to do distribute supplies that the hospitals can’t even get?

  4. I, too, am concerned over the use of these teams for Pandemic response. I believe it’s crucial to develop guidance in how to manage wildfire response (during the Covid19 outbreak) but perhaps by one NIMO team, at the national level. Teams will be needed for wildfire very soon and this distraction and fatigue will have an effect. Unprecedented times indeed.

  5. What are we going to do when the fire bell rings and our teams are assigned and sick? This is bad policy

    1. The same thing hospitals and police have been doing when their members become sick. We are now at a time where right now is more important that what if. Right now we have to stop this thing. What if we don’t? Added, they aren’t gonna send a wild and firefighter into an exposed area with zero knowledge, training or certifications and expect them to get to work as a hazmat technician. Guarantee most if not all will be management based help. Computers, from home, telecommunications, video calls.


Comments are closed.