The Staging Area, May 28, 2022

Logistical Staging Area in New York
Logistical Staging Area in New York during the response to Hurricane Sandy, November, 2012. Photo by Bill Hahnenberg’s National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team.

This weekend we are continuing something we started a few weeks ago. Borrowing an idea from The War Zone, this post can serve as the beginning of an open thread where our readers can talk about issues that we have, or have not, gotten into yet. This is literally an off-topic thread.

The usual rules about commenting apply. And remember, no personal attacks, please.

So let’s enjoy a wide-ranging debate!

(Oh, and send us pics  of staging areas. Date, location, and photographer’s name would be nice.)

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

80 thoughts on “The Staging Area, May 28, 2022”

  1. Topic: Wildfires are increasingly being used to push political agendas.


  2. It’s way past time to be doing unbiased after action review on all fires. Most important is a realistic unbiased assessment of the fuel conditions and associated future risks to near by communities and adjacent landscapes. Vegetation transitions and succession is also important and the BAER should assess management required for fire resilience.

  3. The amazing thing is that the people using the fires and subsequent destruction of homes for their political gain are the ones starting the fires !!! USFS and the current administration !!! As they say, never let a crisis go to waste, and if you don’t have a crisis, create one ! I wonder now the electric fire trucks, helicopters, planes, and dozers are going to work in 2025 when the US will be off oil ?

  4. Agendas: They always seem to float to the top when a big deal happens, wildfire are no different…..every time we have a mass killing in this country the talking heads say they will do something….do something…..No never……it’s time to do something about it BAN ASAULT RIFELS it’s simple, ….it’s time to do something about gun violence…..I am pro 2nd admen……but we have crossed the line to many times….RX needs to looked at, way to many mishaps that truly change lives in a negative way forever.
    Pay and benefits for fed FF’s, it has been an issue for decades. It’s time to put up or shut up…..

    If we have all these vacancies year after year then maybe it’s time to put a real emphasis on recruitment, start in middle schools/high schools….a great many kids have no idea what they are going to do……when I was a seventeen yr old kid I was walking in our mall one day when I/we bumped into this fella wearing this ridiculous uniform, I had never heard of the old FS, before I knew what hit me I was signed up for the YACC and the rest is history, oh he got three of us from my gang (Not Thugs) to sign up, best thing that ever happened to me……well you know what I mean…nearly the best…..

    Last thing, hold accountable those that really step in it, no matter ones intentions, OPM makes it way to hard to take adverse action….it’s just a bunch of hot air……when was the last time you can remember someone getting canned….It just does not happen…..I could be wrong but you have to really mess up.

  5. Staging areas or the old term “Fire Camp.”
    Aside from the obvious separation of resources: helicopter base; vehicles; eating facilities; showers (if you’re lucky enough to have them); Command area; medical; equip.; and the often poorly served “sleeping areas.” When you pull a night shift of line building and return to base camp to “attempt to sleep” in 100 plus or minus temps., why can’t there be more consideration for a good rest/sleep area? There doesn’t need to be the State luxury of “moteling it,” but some form of sheltering where real sleep can occur.
    Am I way out of date with this comment? Has that problem been solved?

  6. Remove fire from Line Officer oversight and spin it off to it’s own stovepiped division/agency. Go!

  7. Yes-yes-yes! Adding that WUI low or lower middle-class areas need assessments too. Too little attention, funding and support go to these communities.

  8. Sorry but attaching “pork barrel stuff” to any legislation is a fact of life in Congress.

  9. The Hotshot Wake Up,

    I think that wildfires are increasingly becoming larger and more of a widespread concern, particularly as WUI areas also increase and become larger. Politicians will use whatever issues they feel matter to their constituents to garner favor and wildfires are no different. I don’t know if that distinction matters.

    I doubt that wildfires will ever become a wedge issue, but we could see a lot of other wedge issues related to: logging, RX practices, large ppm effects on public health, wilderness fire management policy etc. becoming more politicized and polarized. This is maybe where we will have some more serious issues affecting firefighters. General political awareness of wildfires themselves being a growing concern has been incredibly helpful, I feel, to firefighter work conditions. The wedge issue stuff is what worries me.

    In regards to comments about the way appropriations are trickling down: I feel like there is a fair chance that this was a good learning experience for both targeted advocacy groups like GRF and representational groups like NFFE (making a distinction between the two on purpose).

    It is again, just my opinion that: lobbying and other work done to improve conditions for firefighters has more weight and value than ever before, and it would be a good idea to push for much more specific guidelines on how things like raises will be applied.

    It looks like management’s reserved right to “interpret” has been about the same consistent self-serving problem it always has been when they are allowed to do it.

    I still feel our glass is more full than it ever was in terms of the political leverage that firefighters have right now. Partially just because things have gotten so bad.

    That’s my lousy 2 cents.

  10. Stovepiping fire has been done on many forests. After a few years management sees it does not work out well and quietly goes back.

    Like many fire folks, I spent most of my off-season working in other functions. Primarily timber and range. I believe that made me more competitive for promotions and gave me a ‘bigger picture’ view of both fire and the agency in general, and the fire budget saved my salary. I wonder how that would have worked out if my Forest had stovepiped fire. Would I have had the opportunity to gain breadth of experience in other functions? I wonder the same with the new pay rate for fire being implemented. How many other department heads will be willing to pick up a firefighter in the off-season if he suddenly costs half again as much as a non-fire employee? If fire cannot farm out an employee in the off season to other functions and pay the employee salary year around out of the fire budget, will there be enough funding to fully staff with seasonals in fire season?

  11. Spend the money on increasing detection, response times, and suppression forces equal to the task(s) ahead of time. Fuel modification is fueltile, except for limbing up and shortening ladder fuels especially in WUI zones.

  12. Old DRHS,

    Firing someone, while definitely a process has become more difficult because of both the supervisor who is attempting to and HR ocassionally deciding they should be deciding if someone actually should be fired instead of simply processing the paperwork.

    I’ve gone through most of the pre-loading to fire someone I supervised, gotten the blessing and had them leave and not return anyway by the time it mattered and I’ve also chosen not to rehire people but it requires some amount of dilligence on the part of the supervisor. The second you have a problem employee, start writing it down, well before you even are planning to terminate them or have even decided to. If your gut is saying someone may be a problem, write it down, write down a time and date and then you can always just toss it later if you were wrong and they work out. No blood, no foul.

    I have also been a fly on the wall as a union rep, and seen instances where someone should have been terminated but the supervisor had squat for documentation and none of the problems were in addressed enough in performance evals.

    The union gets a bad rap for perpetuating those problems because we end up being thrown in the middle of disciplinary actions that were not done very well and we can’t refuse to rep someone just because they may clearly be a turd to everyone in the room. Believe me, as a fire supervisor, I understand how it works in real life and how frustrating poor-performers are to their crew.

    The other thing I have seen happen, is a supervisor that had all their ducks in a row to terminate someone that clearly needed to go for conduct reasons. I was contacted as a rep but didn’t see any issues and neither did anyone else in the loop. To all of our utter shock, HR just flat out decided not to process the action and decided it was their job to interpret the decision themselves. SMH. Even worse was that the forest then decided to move them somewhere else where they would be in even more of a position to continue the conduct. But that wasn’t an OPM failure, that was HR just deciding to do something.

    Finally, there are just bad supervisors who will decide they don’t like someone. That happens too. Someone has a different opinion on things or is outspoken, but is generally fulfilling their obligations as an employee. Or maybe the supervisor is really just the actual problem.

    I really wish the FS would do evals with some basis on what my employees say about me as their boss. There is always going to be someone in a big enough group that doesn’t like you, but if it is everyone, then maybe it’s you. Instead, all I really have to do is convince my boss, who may not even see me for most of the fire season, that I’m a swell dude. I’d like to have both inputs and I’d be willing to take the consequences of it.

    That would create some better accountability and it would also ensure that my employees could have a say. It would help too in differentiating whether someone thinking I was a bad leader was an exception or a rule.

    We need to be more honest though about how all levels of the agency choose to allow poor performance or bad conduct by inaction or over reaction.

  13. Re: Wildfires being used increasingly for political agendas – Sounds like an invitation for someone to start pushing their agenda here on this message board!

  14. The new budget needs to consider seasonal positions that have stepped up to the plate to serve and not be allowed to apply seasonal time towards retirement. 2/1 Especially if you have served with hard work in hopes of being recognized and land a FT position.

  15. Current Supervisor w/ 20 years FS- Oh I get every thing that you are saying, and most of what you are saying is the problem, I once took adverse action on a good chunk of my crew, they blew it and I was going to give them an unpaid vacation, by the time HR got there act together several months had past and the big deal was no longer that big of a deal, when the personnel action came through I refused to suspend them because of the time it took to get it done…..Aughhhh! lol….

    What would be good for our supervisors is to again have hire and fire authority, with a few limitation and guidelines…..
    I am also a big believer in second third forth and sometimes giving folks as many chances as it takes, as long as I see a little hope….I was a Supt for a period of time and if I hauled off and fired everyone that stepped in it I would not have a crew by the end July….lol…

    I agree that the Bill supported by the grass roots bunch has a lot piled on…….throw some crap against the wall to see if maybe it will stick….stick not so much…..stink….u bet…….

  16. Some IMTs need to do better. We all know what teams are good and what teams are bad. Have you ever got ordered to a fire and found out a certain IMT is in command leaving you with a knot in your stomach due to previous experiences?

    I would hope these “teams” would have a desire to do a better service to the responders and public. I know they have AARs but that’s a one sided perspective.

    Ok so why don’t all IMTs have evaluation forms that resources fill out at demob? The intent would be to highlight deficiencies in the team. Have a rating system for each section in the team. Let recourses suggest how to do better.

    I know if I was in charge I would want to know how the team could do better. Maybe logs is blowing it with food or the finance section keeps loosing CTRs. IDK.

    Unfortunately, with the retention issues it wouldn’t matter if people weren’t doing a good job. We”ll take whoever. But it would be nice if it worked in a way to incentivize doing a good job and held people accountable for not supporting the troops correctly. I understand the privates get evals for viper but this is all encompassing.

  17. Old DRHS,

    Don’t take this the wrong way, because I wasn’t there. But it is just kind of hilarious what you were saying about the situation where you took adverse on a bunch of your crew. Mainly, because by the time HR sorted it out, you didn’t want to any more.

    I have definitely had moments where I really just wanted to send some people home for awhile too and then totally forgotten about it a few days later and been happy with them or even proud of them for something else. Gone from “what the hell did you guys do ffs!” to “strong work team!” in a few days. Hopefully, you didn’t regret the change of heart. It’s tough if you care.

    The rest is TL;DR about hiring authorities. But I guess the short of it is that a more balanced system would be my preference between the supervisor and department leadership.

    As far as supervisor hiring authority…. yeah. That was an overcorrection I think that created a whole new problem.

    There were instances where district managers, like FMOs etc. and certain module leaders were not really acting like public servants being paid by tax payers. Stuff like even promoting random family members in fire and so on. When the consequences came crashing down, some egregious behavior got lumped in with what I think is not such a bad thing, where you are promoting known performers if you have them applying and dear god, actually rewarding program loyalty.

    Sitting in on at least one collective hiring event and watching it at the regional level as just a union fly on the wall (whic I was never invited back to do), what I gathered from management was that collective was a good way to do it because it eliminated the “good old boy” system. These were the words used several times. Which is tricky. At some point, the intent of the hiring process was to be completely “objective and fair”. Which I have never really like because fair is an extremely subjective concept. It is BS if any manager tries to claim it was all just due to applicant volume. Pure BS.

    I think it is quite fair to promote someone who has put in good work on a crew or module and wants to be there. It’s fair in the rest of the world. It’s fair at many very high performing organizations.

    It isn’t fair to promote your son-in-law or drinking buddy who is an average or below average candidate and I personally would make the same distinction for promoting someone just because of their color or gender. Before I get eaten alive on that, I do think that recruitment should absolutely be biased towards discriminated groups and we should be working to put high performers from those groups into a place where they are among the candidates that rise to the top. All things equal, I think it should give them an edge for now, as long as the performance supports it.

    I tried hiring a couple females at the top of my list though lately, because one had some great IHC references from a number of details on a solid IHC, and trails experience, which is super hard work and the other one I have personally worked with and she is a beast, an athlete and a team player as well as a great faller and EMT. Easy top picks, didn’t look back, no weiner required. Unfortunately, they got grabbed up by other programs before I could blink.

    That’s a general recruitment problem and maybe just a reality of the work environment management has handed us module leaders to lead in. That is not a hiring discrimination problem. That is not my fault they went to other programs. Conflating the two is competely disrespectful and idiotic and management likes to pin it exclusively on our “culture” and “unconscious bias”. To sell me on the idea that it is my fault, but don’t feel bad because I am too dumb to know it.

    There is copious valid research to support diversity and we work for a diverse public, spending their diverse money. Send it, give me the quality applicant pool and I am on board 100%!

    Since collective hiring was still placing the SMEs in a seperate and lower tier of authority and still allowing random “x” forest supervisor carte blache to actually *select* all by themselves, we just traded one person’s bias for another. Which is just too freaking bad.

    This is a touchy deal. Hiring is. We definitely and unequivocally supported some very disciminatory conditions with hiring, but it wasn’t like we started having some qualified civil rights lawyers (I mean qualified, not local CRAT collaterals) show up and keep an eye on the process. Management just took control of it. Competant selecting official willing to value SME and recommending official input? Good chance of a successful hiring event. Selecting official playing good old boy or quota games for a mid term? Maybe not.

    I dunno man. I think stovepiping would help, like everyone is saying. Ideally, if you have a selecting official who is aware of and supporting affirmative programs (which can be just fine if done right, are narrow inscope and tailored to…… etc.) and also has some legitimate fire background and has the ability to weigh decisions against a bona fide merit system, like someone who has successfully ran a high complexity IMT or something legit, then you could do it better than just any old supervisor. Including myself in that statement. Just keep the forest sups out of it.

    Good talk btw.

  18. We need to do AARs for these huge fires that look at every team that worked on them, and critiques the response in its entirety. Every fire I have ever been on with multiple IMTs has had its own problems, and it boggles my mind we can burn up a million acres on a Dixie Fire and not spend some effort digging into what did or didn’t work.

  19. Sorry Old DRHS I have to respectfully disagree. People are getting fired. The problem, the wrong people are getting fired. If the powers that be like you, you can do no wrong, but if they don’t like you, HR will do everything in their power to get rid of you. 12 men gang raped 4 women in R3 FS. This is a fact. Not he said she said, a FACT. The 12 men still work in R3, the 4 women were fired immediately. When Cal Joyner, R3 Regional Forester, was asked during a Family Meeting, “Why did you fire the women, not the men?” He said, “Cause I need the men.” I know this is an extreme example, but there are a lot more examples, but it all comes down to this… Does HR like you? Old DRHS, things have really changed. The supervisors don’t have any control/power anymore. The control/power has been given to HR and the HRT program. It’s a disaster. There can be a small problem and because of the system (because someone in HR doesn’t like you) it can be levated to a termination. Which can ruin a person’s life, their career, and then could lead to litigation. Which is a complete waste of time and money.

  20. Story from a long time ago. I worked on a District which had a 20 person fire/fuels crew. Every year the FMO would hire 22 people for the crew. I asked him why he was hiring extras. Hs reply: “I can guarantee out of 22 people I will have at least 2 that would turn out to be worthless. I plan to fire them in front of the whole crew just to show them I had the authority to do so. For the remainder of the season I will have the best crew there ever was.”

  21. Hotshot wake-up, your memes are great, please don’t fall into the same mainstream media trap of posting click-bait just for click-bate-sake. It seems like you’ve been trying to stir stuff up with this RX issue from a few different angles. You were the first to pile on the USFS for losing the RX burn, and then the first to start piling on the decision to cancel RX across the agency…It’s super predictable the agency would overreact after multiple escaped RX’s. It sucks to be a burn boss now-a-days, there’s a shrinking window to get stuff done, and you get hung out to dry from the agency and social media. Again you got great memes.

  22. That crew boss sounds like an absurd train wreck of a jabroni if that was his plan. I’d backhand him in the chops…just to show him he was a poser.

  23. It would be pretty easy to have a QR code for it on the IAPs really, or something along those lines. The tricky part is accountability. Maybe something like a shared site where ratings went? Like SAFECOM or SAFENET but just geared towards aggregating team reviews? I dunno if that would turn into a mess or not… you would want some measure of accountability on the poster too, it could be anonymous, but at least a way to verify it was actually someone on the incident. You could have a hidden check against resource number or something. The team I am attached to wouldn’t have an issue I don’t think with that sort of transparency. I would like it as well, if people wanted to evaluate my fireline leadership through a system like that. I doubt I would win any cool-guy awards, but it would keep things honest between the line and the big bosses.

  24. Pyromaniacs DREAM Question:

    Have Explosives ever been used as a Fire-fighting Tool ?

    * To interrupt a pattern of oxygen flow
    * to disperse a large collection of combustible fuel.
    * To apply Extinguishing materials in a more predictable film or pattern

    Just something I debate with a neighbor who is a retired fire-fighter.

  25. I would agree that sleep is essential, but let’s take a hard look at reality. Most crews book a 16 hour shift “on the clock”. Since breakfast, dinner, shower time etc is not part of the 16, maybe they are getting 4-5 hours of sleep in 24 hours, and then pull 14-21 days straight inn fires. Not Good. In fact, maybe dangerous?

  26. The only time I’ve seen explosives used on fires is in constructing line through difficult terrain using det cord.

  27. Whatever happened to GPS tracking fire line personnel? The Holy Grail of firefighting….

  28. SR,

    In regards to the gang rape that you mentioned. That is definitely a felony. Was law enforcement involved? If it was a fact, then I would take that to mean there were at least arrests and charges and convictions for rape? It might be very uncomfortable for the victim, but there still has to be an initiation of a legal process and preferably immediately to make sure that any investigation has as much evidence as possible.

    Trying to start with some information someone could research starting with criminal procedings for the event you are describing. I’ve never witnessed a rape on a fire. I would definitely believe the conditions exist where it could happen. It is often a remote job with a lot of employees in the field at any time.

    I would assume though, that we would be talking about two entirely different processes when it comes to investigating and determination. HRT or HR or EEO etc. for harrassment and law enforcement for assault, rape and so on.

    I have trouble picturing a circumstance where are rape or sexual assault were occuring and law enforcement were notified; that management would be able to intervene in the process, without also being arrested as accomplices. Being a GS13 I don’t think matters much to the cops.

    I would also have trouble, at least within the organization where I work, picturing a circumstance where there would be even the slightest amount of participation in the crime. Basically, if a woman is getting raped or assaulted, or a man or anyone really, I can’t picture anyone doing anything but immediately physically stopping it and calling the police. As a supervisor, I wouldn’t even notify my boss until I had first stopped it and called 911 and gotten law enforcement coming ASAP. If it was in the field and I didn’t have cell, I would use a sat phone or route it through the dispatch center and I also can’t see any circumstance where they would actively resist me demanding law enforcement and medical support. We’ve flown an LEO to a remote type 5 incident just because we had a confrontational land owner and it happened pretty quick.

    I am not saying that was the case with what you are describing, but if you are contending that it is a fact that a felony occured, I would take that to mean a conviction and legal process occured. It sounds significantly different than the harrasssment reporting process or something within the scope of HR.

    Just trying to get an idea of what you are describing.

  29. Regarding the “gang rape” issue, there is no way ANY Line Officer that I know would
    allow what you described to go on and then “fire the victims.” The men associated with the alleged rape would be hauled off in handcuffs and held until appearing in court. The women would have to appear in court and help the Prosecutor prove their case. “Rape kits” would be evidence to prove the case.
    Quite frankly, I find this “story” to be very questionable, if not completely made up.
    [OLYGUY with 38 years of service, 16 years of which were in Line Officer positions.]

  30. Been done for Line construction and hazard trees. From my understanding phasing it out

  31. OLDDUDE,

    It seems outrageous but, believe me, there are indeed Line Officers these days that I could certainly see doing something like this. Contemporary line officers are Machiavellian in the pursuit of their own career advancement. If they viewed an incident like this as a threat to their career they would do anything it took to “make it go away” even if it meant doing the wrong thing.

    I have personally witnessed line officers not only tolerate egregious harrassment but actually go out of their way to cover it up in order to not bring attention to the Dist.

    Because of this reason, I don’t trust ANY line officer as far as I could throw a locomotive. They only care about their own career exposure and nothing else…which is why most “proletariat” detest them and talk sh__ about them every chance they get.

  32. There is no new pay rate being implemented yet. And I have seen a seasonal do timber in the off season once since cost savings ended.

  33. Stop deceiving yourselves: most fire suppression is a waste of time. Trying to take fire out of an equation where it is needed is causing more long term headache than any town burning down could cause. Tell your friends and family that live in the WUI in no uncertain terms that they are part of the social problem we believe wildfire to be.

  34. Yeah….. but again. Believe me, I don’t have much faith in line officers. But:

    We aren’t talking about harrassment. I’d totally agree that the process is pretty bad and it is easy for a lot of shenanigans to happen. I am not talking HRT or any of that. I am talking about an actually felony being committed.

    What I am asking about is actual cases in which law enforcement becomes involved. Not what happens if and when something gets to the line officer level afterwards, that is a post criminal response by the agency. I am not talking about allegations of a crime where law enforcement was never contacted. Because you still have to report, investigate, arrest, try, convict. It doesn’t make the system great, but it is a much different system with a lot more weight that does not allow line officers do much unless they are specifically a witness. They are still just civilians. It is extremely unfortunate if a violent crime is not reported to the police but it isn’t a crime until it is. It is an allegation. You can’t expect a civilian to take any punitive action on a criminal allegation until it goes through the legal system. Unless I am really confused? I guess they could fire you for the allegation? But I’d pretty nervous firing anyone over a criminal allegation until they at least had been arrested and probably convicted. At the very least, until the cops had been called and a report made to them? Is that crazy?

    We’re hiring people these days that all have cell phones nearly all the time. We’re training from day one on how to activate EMS. Everyone these days is pretty connected. There are some circumstances where someone could be out on a small I.A. or situations where I could still see there being trouble prosecuting a claim because of the time it could take to conact law enforcement. Even then though, you would need some significant collusion between the perpetrators if it was something like a gang rape.

    I am just trying to wrap my head around it. So, say there is a type 5 fire or small type 4 or some other instance where a small group is off alone. Then, everyone minus the victim decides to initiate a rape or assault? Beat someone up whatever. It isn’t impossible at all, just trying to fit it in with the current culture, generation and technology.

    So, this hypothetical situation occurs in which all members present collude and conspire to commit a felony. The victim has their radio or phone taken or whatever and can’t contact law enforcement and no one prevents the crime.

    Then everyone gets back. Sooner or later people end up back in cell service, the victim contacts the police and then notifies their supervisor, assuming the supervisor was not involved/present. Either way, victim calls cops and reports.

    I am pretty sure we’ve clarified to employees that they are protected by the exact same laws regarding felony commited against them as they are at home. They made a point to re-articulate that at the stand up sessions, it is in the mandatory harassment training as well. If a crime occurs, call the police. God, I would hope if one of my employees was raped while I was gone, they would call the cops before even considering telling me. It would be tragic if they waited to go to me first.

    If law enforcement is contacted, does their due diligigence and finds evidence of something like rape and collusion, then where does the line officer come in to that? Where is a supervisor not empowered to go directly to authorities when a crime occurs? This is apples and oranges from harrassment when it comes to reporting, investigation and discipline. Line officers could refuse to comment to the press etc. but they can’t prevent a criminal investigation like that from happening.

    Am I confused about what we are talking about?

  35. Emmett,

    Just start running 16s no matter what if a crew is on a fire. That is my opinion.

    If you read the Master Agreement on the matter, it states:

    “An employee will be considered on duty and time spent on Standby Duty shall be considered hours of work if the employee (Reference 5 CFR 550.112(k) and 5 CFR 551.431(a)): (1) Is restricted to his or her living quarters or designated post of duty, (2) Has his or her activities substantially limited, and (3) Is required to remain in a state of readiness to perform work.”

    Even if an employee is non-bargaining, it is still covered in the CFRs.

    Pretty much all the criteria for paid stand-by applies anyhow. It still baffles me that we have closed camps and argue about whether an employee is on the clock or not if they are eating or something.

    The FS at least, if they wanted to show some good faith on the issues could just start with including showers, meals, setting up tents etc. as paid time and make it formal in case some crusty boss wants to try to balance the federal deficit on the unpaid time of a few gs 4s.

    We really ought to consider some minimum national hours on severity pre-po (12 or 14s at least) and stop faffing around on that too.

  36. Current Supervisor w/ 20 years FS, there’s a lot to unpack here. 1) When someone is raped you need to ask the person what they want to do. It is important that they make the decisions, that they have some sence of control. You also need to call someone who will be an advocate for them, someone who will be there through the whole process. A husband, a wife, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a friend or a family member…this person can help the victim through the process and can also be a witness. 2) If the incident happens off of the park or forest then yes call the police. If it happens on a park or forest you have to call LEI. If it’s on a fire you can call the police or LEI. It depends if there are LEIs on the fire and your location. (This is all about jurisdiction.) 3) Here’s the problem…sometimes the problem is the police…sometimes the problem is LEI. There are some great LEIs and then there are some really bad ones. Let’s say you do get a great one, but that’s not to say that their management is great. I was attacked by my manager and the LEI was awesome, he did everything right and then he was punished. He was demoted and transferred. Meanwhile, management covers it up and the problem just goes away. 4) Back to the victim, I use to believe in calling 911, but after seeing all these women get fired I don’t know if that’s the right answer anymore. I tell people what they can expect and how to protect themselves. They have to make the right decision for themselves. 5) Rape kits…this is pretty much the worse thing you can do to a victim. I remember just crying as they took naked pics of me. And then it got “lost”…What a joke!!! The problem with rape kits is that many are stored and never processed. The excuss is that they are too expensive to process. 6) The process…out of 1000 women raped, 100 will report, 10 will go to court and only 1 person will go to jail. 7) As for me, I’m still fighting this in the courts. The FS doesn’t seem to want to settle. But, I finally, after 4 years, spoke to the FBI, 2 weeks ago. I’ve talked to reporters, Congress, and now finally the FBI. 8) Your hypothetical situation, would have been covered up. The FS would do an investigation and then the lawyers would create a completely different story. The victim would be fired for poor performance and/or misconduct and the criminal would be promoted. Oh, and the LEI depending on his/her role was probably demoted and transferred. The End.

  37. Current Supervisor w/ 20 years FS, was law enforcement involved? Yes. Where there at least arrests and charges and convictions for rape? Nope. The legal process is a joke. Investigations are a way for the FS to collect information to cover up crimes.

  38. Did y’all know that NASA can make clouds and that Reclamation can seed clouds to make it rain? Why don’t y’all try doing something like that? Just an idea!

  39. SR,

    The only frame of reference I have for local law enforcement being called in regards to employees on FS property, happened with 2 different absurdly drunk guys that were being generally disorderly. I know of a few other alcohol related things that were quasi federal, a guy getting a DUI in an FS rig and being fired and some guy who basically trashed a hotel room, broke into somewhere he shouldn’t and was also arrested and then fired. Not sterling moments for the agency, but not covered up or ignored.

    In the first instances specifically on fs property, the local sheriff showed up, not an LEO. One of them was tossed in the tank and the other one was told to go inside. I think the first person was fired? He was running around knocking on doors late at night trying to get people to party with him or something. It wasn’t particularly egregious.

    If someone at my workstation was raped, I could call a sherriff, I am pretty confident of that. Especially if it was at a time of year where dispatch had closed for the day. I believe for us, we have some cooperative agreements, because an LEO could be a long time in responding. We don’t require law enforcement on fires to be agency LEOs either. I don’t see how a county sherriff would not have jurisdiction at a work center in their county. They can pull us over for speeding in gov rigs and frequently have. But yeah, I am not an expert at all either.

    I am not so sure that your experience is an unequivocal assessment of the process where I work. I am sorry it happened, but it doesn’t reflect any broader experience I have had or process that allows something like that to be covered up. To be fair, now that you have mentioned it, I’ll be happy to ask our LEO how the criminal process works, who they report to and who has jurisdiction for criminal allegations on fires since I’d like to make sure I am informed. I asked a close friend who worked on Grand Canyon doing fire previously about the chastity form you mentioned and she was quite sure she never signed one or anything like it. As I mentioned, she would be the first person to refuse something like that. She’s a nurse now and not one to be railroaded.

    All the direction I have had is to make sure to call the police if there is a crime. I haven’t gotten the impression they even want me to try to handle it on my own. It would be a pretty massive disservice to one of my employees if I convinced them to follow chain of command for a crime against them.

    I mean, if I am around, and someone approaches me and tells me they have been raped? Yeah, I suppose I would ask what they want to do, but to proceed with criminal charges, they would need to call the police and press the charges? It would also make any sort of discplinary action a lot easier to pursue. I am not at all qualified to legally determine someone was raped, I can advocate as a supervisor, I can say I believe them etc.

    If I actually witness it? I am calling the cops and stopping it. Sorry if that is the wrong answer. The victim can decide to press charges later or not. They can also choose to file a complaint just to the agency, but if they are going to go there anyway, why not call the police? Management is going to hear about it either way in that instance. What is the point of not calling the cops? If an LEO shows up, follows protocol and later gets fired? I’m sorry. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be called to deal with a crime. That is really just begging to get reported to OIG or OSC at that point and I hope they lawyer up.

    I understand the emotional value of having a friend or family or whatever be brought in as an advocate and so on, but I am not sure how much they are going to be valuable as a witness? I mean as far as how much benefit it would have for trial procedings? The courts would be able to subpeona coworkers and so on.

    I can report that an employee approached me and stated they were raped or assaulted, but it is really going to be hard to move forward without the police also being involved. Making the disctinction here, where I did not witness anything, do not see evidence etc. If we have a seemingly normal crew and a seemingly uninjured looking employee reports something illegal but does not want to call the cops? I just don’t know where to go with that for any substantial remedy.

    I don’t think just saying “The End” conclusively changes what would actually happen where I work or in a lot of the places I have worked. I mean, I wish it did some times. I’d just write it on half the emails I send out.

  40. “Stovepiping fire has been done on many forests. After a few years management sees it does not work out well and quietly goes back.”

    Can you describe a typical scenario of how/why it does not work out well?

  41. Current Supervisor w/ 20 years FS, sorry for saying “The End.” It’s just something I say. I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m glad that most people have not experienced what I have, but some people have and I want them to know that they are not alone. That they are not crazy. That, yes, the system has flaws and some people know how to exploit the system. It sounds like you are doing the right thing, but make sure you are doing the right thing for your employees.

  42. What pork barrel stuff has been attached to the Tim Hart Act? None to my knowledge.

  43. Yes, Sweden used a missile to extinguish a fire in an area with leftover bombs. Put the fire out. \

    This was reliably reported by a website called “Wildfire Today” which I quite like for some reason:

    Also, from the New York Post, August 9, 2018

    “This was recently put into practice in Sweden, where a Gripen fighter jet from the Swedish Air Force dropped a single 500-pound bomb on a forest fire, momentarily depriving the blaze of oxygen and successfully extinguishing it within 100 yards of the detonation point,” wrote Benitez, a former Marine and current Air Force officer, on his blog
    Indeed, the Swedes delivered the fire-fighting payload on July 25 when a blaze that traditional firefighters could not reach began to threaten a residential community, according to vehicle-tech website The Drive.

  44. I would love you hear someone mention in some sort of agenda item to buy back seasonal time. Why have this never been brought up with Grassroots? Probably the hardest working years of my career and they count towards time and grade for annual leave and that’s it!

  45. WFM All Day,

    GRF mentions that in Tim’s Act on their website, unless I am mistaking what you are talking about:

    “Buy Back Temp Time
    Career Wildland Firefighters shall be able to contribute retirement deductions for all temporary employment service after Jan 1, 1989”

    We tried tossing in some stuff as well on the union side when we were working on the LMWFA bill iirc. The problem was trying to get bipartisan support on something that would cost money. Hopefully GRF has better luck.

    Is that what you meant?

  46. UnBelivaBle,

    April Fools! 😉

    NASA Makes Clouds:

    Scroll down and you can see a video of the water canister releasing. It looks like the water is exploding! You can also watch The G Word on Netflix and they talk about how NASA makes clouds.

    Cloud Seeding:

    This one is a long paper on cloud seeding. But if you google ‘cloud seeding’ there’s a lot of different stories about how different states (Texas, Colorado, the list goes on) are using cloud seeding to help with the drought.

    So, why not create clouds and then seed them to make it rain to put out a fire?

    Hey, I’m giving y’all this idea for free. Just think what I could do if I worked for you! 😉

    Elon Mulk give me a call!!! 🙂

  47. I enjoy this forum very much, it’s the only outlet that this old retired Fed FF has to stay a little connected.
    With that said, once in a while some outlandish stuff shows up here that really causes one to question the validity of the story. I know that this forum is here for all of us to enjoy, it’s good to vent once in a while, it’s healthy, and Bill does a great job of fact checking some of this stuff. I do not want to call any one out but the gang rape thing….wow……that would have made national news, line officers wield a good bit of so called power, but this is a stretch…..I agree that it’s not impossible just improbable.
    There is no doubt that women have suffered some very real indignities at the hands of others, this is a true and valid statement, and I do not doubt that women have been assaulted in the manner described here……when we throw a story out like this then maybe a few facts would be nice, where….dates…….it’s sound to me that you always have an ax to grind…..I worked for the feds 38 years, when someone gets terminated, it is for cause, it would be near impossible to fire someone just because you don’t like them…..HR is going to make you jump thru the hoops… your i’s cross your t’s. If I don’s care for a person the last thing I am going to do is spend the energy trying to fire them, it would blow up in my face and I would lose all cred….I was no one special, just a kid who needed a job that ended up with a great career, who toed the line every day, the first few years I was afraid I could be fired at any time..I had tremendous respect for my Forman Yes Sir No Sir….lol…….hang in there it’s going to be alright……it has to be……..Peace

    Current Supervisor w/ 20 years FS-I have a feeling that folks may like working for you……

  48. Yes that is what I meant, I apologize I thought I did most of my homework on that subject. And I sure do hope they have better luck, 8 years of buy back for me would be stupendous.

  49. Old DRHS, why is it when I say something I have to reference my statement by putting a link, but when you say something, no reference, no link? According to APA, when you write a paper you don’t have to reference common facts like the world is round, because everyone knows that as a fact. I was going to put a link about what happened in R3, but then I realized you can google it yourself and read the 100s of articles about misconduct in the FS. Google it! It’s on PBS, Dateline, NPR, CNN, Fox News, the list goes on and on. This conversation started when you said that it’s hard to fire someone and I said that I respectfully disagree. That it is easy to fire someone. I’m trying to be nice here, but things have changed (since you retired) and not for the better. Here’s the deal the NPS/FS has a retention problem and the next generation is not going to put up with this…So, the NPS/FS needs to change, in order, to recruit and keep people. What I said was a very low bar…and should be easy to fix if they wanted to fix it. As for comments about that I have an ax to grind… Yes, yes, I do and you should too. I get it people say it to discredit what I say, but it doesn’t change the facts. Look belittle me all you want, but it just proves exactly what I’m saying.

  50. CSR retirees are permitted to “buy back” seasonal and military time. I don’t know if FERS retirees can do so. As a CSR retiree I checked this out very closely. For me, I had a total of one year of seasonal employment plus two years of military service I would have to buy back. OPM did the calculations and it turns out that the money I would be required to pay back would earn more in a saving account than the potential increase in my retirement check.

    I chose not to pay back for my temp/military time.

  51. CSR retirees are permitted to “buy back” seasonal and military time. I don’t know if FERS retirees can do so. As a CSR retiree I checked this out very closely. For me, I had a total of one year of seasonal employment plus two years of military service I would have to buy back. OPM did the calculations and it turns out that the money I would be required to pay back would earn more in a saving account than the potential increase in my retirement check.

    I chose not to pay back for my temp/military time.

  52. SR,

    I know exactly what you are referring to as far as articles. I was not present for most of the allegations made and we should definitely take them seriously.

    I was however present for at least one imvestigation that Lesa Donnelly was involved in at the apprenticeship program. I was not involved as a claimant or an accused party. I can tell you what I saw there. Donnelly, a reporter for daily KOS (I believe that was who) had arrived to follow up as advocates for someone who was alleging a number of things, one of the claims was assault. As far as I know, the assault claim was not related to the person’s time at the program. What I had heard while there, was that the individual had gone AWOL, had missed enough of the curriculum there to be ineligible to complete that session, and was being sent home.

    At that point, everything went nuts. I cannot at all speak for the assault claims but I was definitely present to watch Ms. Donnelly and company show up at the local bar and restaurant and post up with cell phones to try to record people’s after work activity and conversations. I mean I was there watching it. I watched an apprentice walk up to a staff member and sit on his lap. The moment that happened, the Donnelly group took a photo and later submitted it as “evidence” and the staff member was sent home. They approached my table where I was sitting with staff members and started trying to talk to us and record us, presumably for more “evidence”. I have no idea what they were hoping for, some bad words? Some adults drinking a beer and talking about work?

    The claimant submitted some rather damning voicemails of some other individual at the program making some very sexual comments. Unfortunately, some of the accused had messages from the claimant that were also sexual in nature that apparently the “advocates” had chosen not to originally provide.

    Daily KOS immediately wrote an article entitled “First they Raped Her and then they Fired Her”. This was within days of all of this before any harrassment invesigations had even been completed. Let alone any criminal investigations. To the best of my knowledge, no law enforcement was ever contacted. The apprentice program is not exactly a backwoods isolated place. It is shared with a lot of WO folks and under a constant lens.

    What I saw was Ms. Donnelly and co. actively engaging in what looked like some very slipshod entrapment.

    I was never questioned by either them or the agency, neither were most of the staff. All of this hit the news before the dust could even settle. As much as you want to call Daily KOS news.

    Fast forward to some congressional testimony made and a certain letter submitted to the committee. On one of the articles you are referencing, I had the dumb luck of being at the apprenticeship program again as staff and actually happened to be in the written testimony with my name redacted.

    I was never contacted to provide any details of that particular testimony either. The testimony stated that I was a duty officer present and implied I was the supervisor. That is patently untrue. In fact, the person who wrote it was my supervisor there at the time. I actually “stood up” and confronted someone whom she claimed had grabbed her. I didn’t witness that, I was sitting with a different group chatting about work. Not only did I confront the individual, I asked her what she wanted to do, which was eventually nothing immediate. I.e. she didn’t want to call the police.

    I didn’t see what she said happened, so I took her on her word and did the best I could. I walked her home with her friend, she thanked me for standing up to the person she said had grabbed her.

    I wrote a report about it, advocating for her and acting as a witness as far as what I saw myself, which I submitted to my boss and offered all the help I could in the context of what she wanted to do to pursue it. The party against whom the allegations were made was sent home. I know because I was present making sure they behaved themselves when leaving.

    Fast forward a few years and suddenly, there is my name, redacted in a testimony implying I was a “duty officer” and that the police should have been summoned etc. I was never once contacted for any interview in this testimony. I am literally not qualified to be a duty officer. The term “duty officer” was used at the program to identify a staff member who had the collateral job of carrying a phone called “the duty officer phone” that was a line to call staff overhead if something happened after hours. That was it. I was literally working under the claimant when all this happened. Duty officer as a legitimate collateral qualification is still above the qualifications I have right now as I am writing this. It was objectively inaccurate in the testimony, among other things.

    So…. I don’t know about the 100s of other articles or events you are describing, but I was actually there when 2 of them made it to the news and they were not at all vetted for accuracy.

    I would have testified under oath to what I saw had the allegations actually involved any law enforcement, in the latter of the two, I would have also testified that I believed my coworker and that there were likely witnesses to support her claim.

    Now, I am trying to keep an open mind here, but you have to understand that I don’t enjoy either myself or my coworkers being professionally thrown under the bus to support someone else’s complaints, whether they are valid or not.

    I want to be an advocate and I want to make sure we are working towards a just and fair culture but from what I saw, the way in which at least some of the advocacy work was done, was a means to end with no consideration for collateral damage and devoid of credibility. That does not help victims at all. It makes people suspicious and doubtful of legitimate claims and countermands what I hope we are actually working towards.

  53. SR-My intentions are to belittle no one, not ever……however I just can not buy into the victims being fired, once these allegations are made it sets off a chain of events that no Line Officer on earth can stop..If you are guilty you are going to jail…period…No one is going to stop it, with the advent of the Me Too movement being everywhere no one wants to get caught doing the wrong thing….the days of looking the other way are long gone……

    As I recall many of these news program reported mainly allegations, some were substantiated, I do not recall ever hearing that 12 raped 4, no doubt it could have happened, I do recall seeing/reading something about something in R-5….Can not recall the details…The FS refused to comment. As I said I do not dispute that this crap occurs, working in the WF Service has never been made equitable for women as well as others, that’s just a fact….it’s always going to be more difficult, no one should ever feel threatened in their workplace, the job is tough enough……

    But it has improved greatly for everyone…..not nearly as bad it once was…..

    Please except my apologies, not at all my intention to belittle you……..

  54. So true. Line officers, Chief and our deputy chief don’t care about there reputation because they don’t have a reputation to stand on. Where is our fire Director. Who is it. Why don’t they speak up? So they don’t care. They read these posts and maybe laugh at these posts. Small percentage they think all is fine. We must hold the line. Worthless wanna be leadership selected into a position because of who they know not what they know.

  55. Tim (The Hotshot Wakeup) was good as stirring up similar drama on the crew, so not surprising he does it elsewhere, that’s just Tim. I wondered if he’d actually use this platform truthfully, not for drama’s sake, but I quickly saw most his hotshot stories he posted were fiction.

  56. You can really trust LE for what it’s worth. I know for a fact that on a certain LE detail in the late- 2000s, a large group of LEOs spent the whole day at a strip club on 01 time-one of the overhead’s relatives owned the club. What else? The SAC of that particular region was having an affair with an intern and I think that gal attempted suicide and that was brushed under the rug…That’s pretty dirty so it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that nothing would be done about rapes.

  57. There are around 3500 law enforcement officers working for the DOI and somewhere around 650 working FS. The last I met working where I am was a woman. I don’t think she goes to strip clubs. Maybe though.

  58. Old DRHS, I’m sorry, but I’m going have to disagree with you. 1) Victims are being fired. I was fired. 2) If you’re guilty your going to jail. I wish that was true, but it’s not. The FS covers up the crimes. Out of 1000 rapes only one person will go to jail. 3) Days of looking the other way are long gone? Really? In your comments you dismiss what happened, because, it didn’t happen to you! This is why men and women don’t come forward, because people like you don’t believe them. Why risk your job when people don’t believe you? I know things have gotten worse, because men and women call me. The problem is they can’t report it to LEI, because they will be fired. The NPS/FS is a closed system, an experiment in communism. Seriously, do you vote for the Superintendent? Do you vote for the Chief? Do you have a choice where you live? NO! Come on Old DRHS open your eyes! There are so many problem with the NPS/FS, but no one is willing to fix it, because they either like it the way it is or are afraid of losing their jobs, healthcare or retirement.

  59. Current Supervisor w/ 20 years FS, I testified under oath many many times and I’ll tell you…It’s not fun!!! I wish you the best. I know that being a supervisor is not easy. (Especially, dealing with HR.) There are a lot of gotchas out there. Good luck and stay safe!

  60. There is some misinformation here. George, explosives are not being phased out. Skeptic, Fire Line Explosives (FLE) not det cord is used to put in the fire line and take down hazard trees. FLE doesn’t cause fires because it has very minimal flash (fire), has gone through extensive testing, and been used on hundreds of fires.

    LBL, explosives have been used of fire for decades to put in fire line and take down hazard trees. There is no explosive that could disrupt the pattern of oxygen flow without causing some serious other problems. FLE clears the ground down to mineral soil and defoliates nearby vegetation with the blast. As far as using explosive to better disperse extinguishing materials, that has been tested and has never produced effective results.

  61. Wendy I quess I was miss informed I was on a fire in the Boundary Waters an they cut line with it. It leaves a more natural fire line for wilderness. Then the year Gatlinburg burned the were using it on hazard trees big Hemlocks with ring shake and I asked I as told it was getting phased out. That could have been just that forest don’t know

  62. I support pot stirring when there is a need…RX is a losing battle. For someone to come out and bash the Forest for losing a burn on social media feeds that public anger, and then the same person comes out to bash the Forest Service for the RX Standown (which is a result of that public anger) seems like he’s just trying to get likes for his podcast…I guess that’s a quick way of gaining followers.

  63. I do know that Region 8 and Region 9 have decided to let their blasting programs lapse. Neither of those regions support or have a blasting program anymore. So it would make sense that you heard blasting was ending when you were in Gatlinburg. The USFS still has blasting programs in all the other regions.

  64. That is the kind of response that has gotten us into this situation. To act like more of the same is going to solve the problem is to live in denial.

  65. If we continue to see PODS and Firesheds used by the policy makers, the teams in general will be protected. Reliance on the the public to set the standard may not work.

    Then trends in fire size and severity will tell us what’s working and definitely what’s not..

Comments are closed.