The Staging Area, July 22, 2022

Staging area, Grant Fire, Riverside County, CA June 22, 2022
Staging area, Grant Fire, near the Salton Sea in Riverside County, California June 22, 2022. BLM 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. You have the floor.

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

Let’s enjoy a wide-ranging conversation!

(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.

16 thoughts on “The Staging Area, July 22, 2022”

  1. I am curious whether folks much more knowledgeable than me think the wildland fire helo “fleet” is aging or aged to a point of serious concern, similar to the state of the air tanker “fleet” several years ago prior to the “nextgen” air tanker emphasis by the agencies? Maybe not so much Type 3s, but T2 and T1 helos? #JustaPassenger
    And as Always – Thanks Bill!

  2. I don’t know if y’all have noticed this, but there were a handful of jobs posted for the NPS and FS on USAJobs, but most of the jobs were internal. So, how is that going to help? I mean, Randy Moore said y’all are still not up to capacity. How is transferring people going to fix this problem? Am I missing something here?

  3. Curious. If CISM (spell check on acronym) is being called in to fire but takes several days to mobilize and arrive…..and a crew involved wants to go home because staying near the fatality feels worse…. Does holding them there at the incident help? Could they not go home and then Zoom meet in like lots of telehealth is doing these days, from safety and comfort of home?

    Not something I’ve personally experienced, but heard versions of this story repeated today and as far back as Storm King. Wonder if any expertise/experience can explain what’s going on and why and if it works.

    1. The USFS is trying to develop a CISM Program, but lack of funding, training and trained individuals is hampering their efforts. Many people who have had the most basic introduction to USFS CISM try to be helpful, but often lack the background to provide the necessary assistance. EAP is not always available in remote areas, even with virtual options, and the first session should be held in person when possible and quickly. Health and Safety managers need to reach out and develop local resources and find assistance for when it does happen on their district or forest. Metro Police and Fire Departments often have trained staff, counselors and chaplains available. They may also know of other options in the area to get AAR’s, Debriefs, sensing sessions, counselling, etc., as soon after the event as possible. It has been my experience that having people wait around for a CISM session is counter productive. Wanting to return home to their friends and family is natural. It is unfortunate that the federal wildland agencies use the band-aid approach at each event, though there have been some improvements. It is also unfortunate that we have to depend on outside organizations to take care of our employees and their families. The Wildland Firefighter Foundation is a great source that acts quickly and has some resources that they can bring in.

  4. When can we have an honest discussion about the outcome of 100% suppression? Look back to the lightning bust of 2008 in CA and imagine if that happened in 1708? Now in 2022 we have unprecedented fuel loading and see fires producing more deadly smoke than ever before and fires that at times are nearly impossible to contain/ control. Is 100% suppression always the answer? Naturally caused fires happened before we were here and will happen after we’re gone. I said it, feel free to send your anger. Much love and stay safe!

    1. I don’t think total 100% suppression has ever happened due to multiple ignitions, access, and lack of resources. Also not to be confused with aggressive initial attack. I assume you are talking about the lower 48 and mainly the west. Most of the lower 48 in my opinion is too populated and high value to consider anything but aggressive initial attack, including much of the West. I do believe there are opportunities to monitor or do modified suppression, but pretty limited. It would depend on the size of the unpopulated area, time of year, elevation, and fire conditions. In my view, I believe because of climate change, smoke management, and increasingly dense population we should be drastically increasing our aviation resources, increasing and upgrading personnel, and improving initial attack response on a National basis. The country also needs to move back to sustainable commercial management (logging) of our forests coupled with fuel reduction treatments. Right now the track record of certain agencies in prescribed burning and modified or let burn fires is not good.

  5. No anger from me, point protection should be used for some of these fires and let them do there thing.

  6. I work in the Great Basin GACC on a 2IA contract crew and have done so for 5 years. Never before have I seen so many out of region resources come into our region and put us out of work for so long. I’m curious if resource ordering has changed. From my understanding GACC’s are supposed to order up all available local resources before ordering in out of area resources. I do understand Type 1 crews (regardless of GACC commitments) are always first in line but the GBCC has brought in a few out of area 2IA crews before our crews.
    Just some observations from someone who tries to see the bigger picture.

    1. Squadie, yes, that’s really happening!
      1) Simple answer – Money
      2) More complex answer – Cliques. The NPS and the FS are made up cliques. The most popular kids get to go on the best assignments. The less popular get to go on the most dangerous assignments or are left out completely. I know it’s weird, but once you figure that out, the organization looks a lot different. You figure out real quick which clique you’re in. Cliques are very dangerous!!! It’s a way of lifting some up, while dehumanizing others.

    2. Short answer–national PL-3. Orders should go to federal/ state resources prior to contractors… Sorry if you disagree but that’s just a truth. With multiple regions experiencing slow seasons so far the GBGACC is positioning resources because of potential. If we get to a national PL of 4/5 you’ll get an order soon.

      1. Ah I guess I hadn’t considered the PL3 factor. Makes a bit more sense with that in mind. My crews have been working since March 15 out East and in the SW. So I suppose some time off isn’t so bad. Just felt strange to be out of work in mid-July.
        We were assigned to the Moose fire today.

    3. Sometimes they are using severity dollars and can’t pay contract crews with severity money for standby. I would guess your crew is considered Intial Attack and the incoming crews as supplemental

  7. For those of you that have not heard about the heroism that took place during the CH47 crash on the Moose fire in Salmon Idaho.

    Some Hotshots were on the river bank when the ship went down. Without regard for their own safety, and laden with equipment, these brave Shots swam the raging Salmon and extricated the pilots in an attempt to save them. This conduct is nothing short of meritorious and deserves recognition!

    I propose we nominate these, yet to be named individuals!

  8. Hand Crews (and wildland firefighters in general), please, from someone who’s been doing this for a long time (yes, some old, retired guy, but still out there) maintain a 10 foot walking/working distance when hiking.
    From S-130:
    Discuss spacing with participants and impress upon them the importance as it relates to safety.
    Personnel should maintain a 10-foot minimum separation from others while walking and working
    for the following possible reasons:
    o Slips, trips, and falls (they happen!).
    o Maintains the ability to avoid and evade rolling material.
    o Provides for easy escape from potential aerial hazards.
    o Ability to avoid a tool strike should a ricochet or sudden shift in tool swing occur.
    o Provides sufficient clearance to swing a tool that requires more movement and effort.
    o Still close enough to communicate verbally and pass messages regarding hazards and direction.

    EVERY crew I see does not follow this.
    This is a fundamental safety issue.
    Thank you, I mean no disrespect, just an ever present observation.

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