The Staging Area, June 18, 2022

Staging area at West Mullan Fire
Staging area at the West Mullan Fire, July 15, 2013, 50 air miles northwest of Missoula, MT. InciWeb photo.

This weekend we are continuing an occasional weekend feature we started a few weeks ago. 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 or politics, please.

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.

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.

30 thoughts on “The Staging Area, June 18, 2022”

  1. If the monsoons don’t intervene as they may be right now, the Gila will have intentionally burned the entire Aldo Leopold Wilderness using the Black Fire as a managed fire. I wonder if any historical fire ever burned an entire wilderness in one season. UAVs are doing for firefighting what are doing for war: They are making it not only possible but preferable to fight fire from the comfort of the ICP.

    1. Caribou Wilderness in Lassen NF last year. The entire Wilderness was in the Dixie Fire footprint.
      Much of the Bucks Wilderness of Plumas NF.

    2. Some large wilderness fires I can remember.

      Some time in the ’70s the Wilderness on the Nebraska NF was just about completely burned. The ironic part (if I recall correctly) was the fire burned just a week or two after the Legislation creating the Wilderness was signed.

      Also, a couple of years ago, the Savage Run Wilderness and Platt River Wilderness on the Medicine Bow- Routt (CO/WY) were destroyed by the Mullen Creek Fire

  2. Sorry, this is going to be a long story, but stick with me, I have a point!!! I’m from the south, so football was part of my upbringing. When I was in college, I went to school and worked 3 part time jobs to pay for school. I saved my money and bought a ticket to go to a Dallas Cowboy game. They went on strike, because they didn’t make enough money. I was making $2-$4 /hr and they went on strike, because a million dollars wasn’t enough money. I was up-set!!! I was like why do football players make so much money? A friend of mine explained that they make so much money, because they can get hurt and can’t play as they get older. Ok. So, here’s my point. Firefighters get hurt. So, why don’t we pay firefighters the same as we do football players?

  3. An old shot story,
    Mid 90’s, I am a Forman/captain on a IHC, we are assigned to a fire in the UT high country, we have been asked to Coyote for several days, to be supported by helo, water, MRE’s and maybe a few surprises. The work is hard, long days, bed down where you end the day, carve out a spot and make it your own, it’s already way dark when you bed down because for some reason you still have enough energy to sit up and hang w/ the crew just talking nonsense around a fire.
    Morning comes early, wake up feeling like someone poured dirt in your mouth, eat another MRE, it’s time to get ready to go, hurry up and put a few licks on your tool. However most of us packed the makings for tin can coffee and Drum Tabaco, brew your coffee smoke your cig w/ your buddies and brush your teeth watching the sun come up, Best Job Ever….Oh the helo arrives at our H-Spot 08 something in the morn for our briefing, Ops gets out, you guys are doing great, we are counting on you to get this thing tied in, so we can celebrate containment and have a party…lol….do not remember the exact words….he was not kidding….we all mused over that one for a while….

    I know that we all have great memories, however memories do not pay bills…….Hang in there, something has to give soon…..I am pulling for you all……

  4. Hi
    I am a Plans Chief, and I am starting the beginning of my 50th season, so I have been around.
    I would like to hear some comments on the IAP, especially the division assignments. How could we make it better? What is good and bad. I will tell you right now that some of the bulk is in there because “someone” insists we need it. I can’t change that. But is there something else that would be actually helpful? How to improve the division assignments? had to get corrections to us better so we don’t misspell your name for 3 shifts. etc. Improvements so that it would actually be read and used. We put a lot of work into it, and would like to make that work really useful. Thank you

    1. I need the weather, whose on the divs, commo, air ops summary, demob info. numbers would be helpful if folks are willing to provide them. At least for Div, Div (t) and tfld.

      1. Medical is number 1 priority IMO. Medical procedure – who to go thru, and what all the medical resources are on Divs and nearby (short haul, air ambo, helispots). We all have 8line in our IRPGs, I don’t mean the 8line per say. Oftentimes we have to hunt for that info on IAPs, some better than others, but this shit happens. Helicopters fall into the salmon river and there’s no protocol for extraction, or crew member gets struck by domino-ing tree just after dark on the steepest hill imaginable…. Being better prepared should ideally be coming from the top down, but it feels like it’s often coming from IHCs with fatality fire experience. Cheers and thanks for asking!

    2. Sue, I think this goes into a number of things. One we tend to use to technology as an add on instead of making our current task easier. I really wonder why don’t we have a Incident Support software Program, that allows electronic check-in that feeds the IAP, IROC, IQCS, etc,… With today’s tech we should be able to check in from our phones, send time, make are own corrections through an app. Get important info out through smart device. Yes internet is limited in some areas but that isn’t the norm anymore, with cell service, starlink etc. I think the biggest thing we could do is invest in a software program that increase efficiencies and is current with the times.

      1. Kevin
        I so very much agree with you. IF I were Queen, well, that’s not happening.
        We can only hope that our lack of personnel will drive improvement in our technology so that it actually saves us work.

  5. Sue,

    Yes. There are a number of things we can do to improve the IAP. An Australian study in 2002 found around 40% of responders found the IAP to be “of little or no use”. There is no simple answer to a very complex problem, but (on the other hand), some of the most basic solutions are being ignored because of doctrinal shortcomings of ICS, organizational resistance, or CYA (protect your Incident perissodactyl). I’m not trying to shortcut this discussion by not providing my “solutions” here, but I have been working on this for decades. Understanding this issue or changing the doctrine should never be a five minute discussion. If you have been doing ICs for 50 years, you may be able to help me. I have expertise in ICS training and theoretical application of ICS, but limited application (only a dozen type 1 or type 2 incidents). Theory without practical application is useless. Practical application without understanding is inefficient. Please contact me at and let’s discuss this.

    As always, thanks to Bill Gabbert for providing a forum for discussions like this and the continual information on for situational awareness on the world of wildfires. Passion shows. That passion should be acknowledged and rewarded.

    1. I will contact you directly, but as an aside, ICS has not been around for 50 years. when I started we had the “Large Fire Organization” there was a Fire Boss. Sector Bosses. Plans was Maps and Records. ICS came in sometime in the mid 80s.

  6. Bill.
    I love the staging area, but I think it should include a theme. Opening it up to all issues is great because it helps identify what the issues are. On the other hand, some issues are critical. Without a “theme”, the critical issues become subverted/confused with the “nice to know” or “Here’s what I think” issues, which are equally important, but notI equally important (if you know what I mean).

    Should we have a “Theme” at least once in awhile? Just asking.

    No matter what the answer, I find the discussions, helpful, useful, educational, and filling in the gaps that I don’t know. Thanks to everybody for their experience and contributions’!

      1. “No” is not a very convincing argument, an explanation of a contradictory position, or a justification of a position. “No” is a personal opinion, a rejection of progress, and an absence of explanation. I love that you say “no”, but why? Are you against progress, improvement, exploration? Or are you just saying “no” because you don’t like the idea? I think that we should all discuss chocolate during incidents (just kidding). Looking forward to a detailed answer to support your position and help everyone understand exactly what the benefits of unrestricted opinions are.

    1. Tom, I appreciate your input, but every other post on the site has a theme. The whole point of The Staging Area is that there is no theme. Anyone can select a topic they’d like to write about.

      1. Thanks Bill! As the moderator and host, I entirely respect your direction and wishes. As a matter of fact, I entirely appreciate the fact it is open to any opinion and any topic!

        My contrarian personality and inquisitive nature asks, is this the most effective use of great experience and passionate voices? I see critical and complicated topics expressed in the staging area (great) but if the discussions is simply “No! I don’t like it.”, then nobody learns anything from the discussion. It is not the viewpoint or the topic that I am looking for, but perhaps a bit more of an explanation.

        “No” is not a useful argument, position, or understanding of extremely difficult themes. If everyone simply said “No , I disagree!” then any post becomes a Monty Python “I’m looking for an argument” meme. No is not an explanation or an argument, it is a negative.

        Thanks, as always Bill, for jumping in and making sure Wildfire Today is effective and informative! I will continue to prod anyone who disagrees with me by saying “No!” with a gentle sharp stick in their side to provide a further explanation. While articles do provide a great forum for a particular topic, I would argue that the most critical topics are not identified by an article or particular situation that day. Yes, they hit pet peeves and personal biases, but does one incident address the underlying causes, resource challenges, or fundamental misunderstandings of response as a whole?

        If anyone can select a topic they’d like to write about, “No is a valid argument” is the topic I would like to address and hear from the wide and knowledgeable audience you have. An important topic like the effectiveness and improvement of an IAP should elicit more than “No” in my opinion. I hear a lot of “No” in my life, but a reasoned, experienced, and knowledgeable answer helps me learn! I really don’t want to be a “No – it all”.

        I hope everyone has a good weekend, has an experienced and helpful answer to Sue Puddy’s question and support for all it brings to the understanding of the challenges and difficulties of emergency response.

        You are doing a great job, and I am sincerely looking forward to hearing from Tom Jone, Bill Gabbert and anyone else as to why “No” is s valid argument or contributes to the conversation.

        Thanks, Bill, for all you do! And thanks for chiming in. Message received and gleefully acknowledged!

        1. Tom, you bring up some good points. It reminds me of an article I wrote for Ranger magazine in 1994, titled, “The Top 10 List: Reasons Why You Can’t Do That.” Portions of it were later quoted by the Secretary of the Interior. I republished it on Wildfire Today in 2011.

          1. Bill,

            I have been aware of many of those reasons for a number of years, but I really appreciate you explanations below. It reminds my of one of my first conferences in Washington State as to why we don’t prepare: “It won’t affect us, if it does affect us it won’t be that bad, if it is bad there is nothing we can do about it.”

            Many of those objections are why we don’t learn the lessons of “lessons learned”. There is an institutional resistance to doing something new. I’m still trying to convince law enforcement that ICS works for them as much as anybody. I have written a paper on “Why lessons learned are not learned” and will carefully go through your points to add anything I have missed. That article is brilliant and thanks for pointing out to me!


  7. The topic I want to write about: gratitude

    It may sound cheesy to some people but I am genuinely thankful and proud I work for the forest service. I’ve had a lot of jobs in the past, got along well with most of the people I’ve worked with but working here Ive finally found a place where I fit in, like really well. The people Ive worked with over the years are mostly awesome and it’s crazy how similar we tend to be. Most of us hunt, fish, snowboard, surf, rock climb, bike…a lot of us are into traveling and adventures of all sorts although we tend to be into extreme sports more often than not. I finally found a career not just a job where I actually fit in with the culture. And I know that there’s a lot in the forest service that’s broken and there’s also been people who’ve had bad experiences with harassment and the like. That’s awful and I’m sorry it’s happened. But for the most part this agency is filled with people who simply like being outdoors..we like picking up cool rocks, hiking our butts off to see what’s around the corner. We love the sunsets and sunrises. We love telling stories about some crazy fire we were on or some horrible hill we remember hiking last season every day. We love the fact that we’re part of something that most won’t ever understand or even care about. Thats why I work here. Fighting fire is challenging, physically hard and’s dangerous. My family and friends don’t understand why I do it but all of you do. And that’s great with me. The comraderie you experience in this job is unique and special – I’m thankful for it. Working on crews and engines for me personally has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life not because we cut, dig, burn and all that but because the people are fun to be with, fun to work out with, fun to challenge and be challenged by.
    So I’m grateful I have my job, thank you former and current wildland firefighters for being part of this – it’s a privilege to sweat with you all.
    Stay safe.

  8. Joe Schmo, Yea! Thanks……that’s it…..that’s why we do it, (Did IT) for all of that and so much more….It’s the greatest most ridiculous and yes sometime most awful job on the planet…..😊

    Happy Fathers day to all you fathers out there….Peace

    I agree no themes please, it’s great the way it is, the way it works is that we kinda start our own theme with what ever topic we post…..

  9. Thanks Joe, exactly the sentiment we need to promote more. Yes, there are challenges, and folks that are leaving because of those challenges have found that the things you’ve described either aren’t worth it, or the emotional and financial stress is too much to overcome. It’s been that way for a long time, people coming and going, but for all the reasons you mentioned, is why I stayed. For all of you contemplating your future in whatever organization you’re in, promote a positive work environment and enjoy all of the good times, move past the struggles and do what you can to make the job better.

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