Forest Service Burn Boss arrested after prescribed fire escapes in Oregon

Malheur National Forest

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Updated at 8 a.m. PDT Oct. 22, 2022

Late Friday afternoon Chief of the Forest Service Randy Moore sent an email to all Forest Service employees regarding the Wednesday October 19 arrest of a Burn Boss while conducting a prescribed fire that slopped over the Forest boundary, burning approximately 18 acres of private land.

“This week, there was an incident in the Pacific Northwest Region where a Forest Service Burn Boss was arrested while leading a prescribed fire that crossed over onto private lands,” the email read in part. “They were engaging in appropriate, coordinated, and vital prescribed fire work alongside state and other colleagues approved and supported by the Agency Administrator. In my opinion, this arrest was highly inappropriate under these circumstances, and I will not stand idly by without fully defending the Burn Boss and all employees carrying out their official duties as federal employees.  

This employee should not have been singled out, and we are working to address these unfortunate circumstances on their behalf,” Chief Moore continued. “This also prompted me to want to reach out to all of you and remind you of how important you are to the success of the Forest Service. You will always have my support and the same from your regional and local leadership. I will aggressively engage to ensure our important work across the country is allowed to move forward unhampered as you carry out duties in your official capacity.”

The arrest of the Forest Service Burn Boss while conducting a prescribed fire has been picked up by numerous news organizations, including Washington Post, Guardian, NBC News, ABC news, and Reuters.

To our knowledge this is the first time a federal government firefighter has been arrested at a fire for conducting their assigned duties.


Updated at 12:20 p.m. PDT Oct. 21, 2022

Friday morning the Regional Forester of the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Region, Glenn Casamassa, sent the following email message to all USFS employees in the Region. (We removed the email addresses)


From: Casamassa, Glenn -FS
Sent: Friday, October 21, 2022 11:07 AM
To: FS-pdl R6 ALL EMPS All Regional Emps
Subject: Support for Malheur Starr Prescribed Burn Boss and crew

To all Region 6 employees,

Many of you have probably seen the news and social media coverage about one of our employees arrested for leading a prescribed fire that slopped over onto private lands. There’s a lot of context and additional information about this incident that would be inappropriate to share publicly at this time, but none of that information revolves around the work conducted during the prescribed burn, the professionalism of our employees, partners, and contractors, or how the burn sloped over onto private land.

While I can’t go into specifics around the arrest of the burn boss, I want each of you to know that all times he, and the entire team that engaged on the Starr prescribed fire, had, and continues to have, our full support.

Communication and coordination between all levels of the Forest Service and the department were effectively in place within hours of this incident. This included local, regional, and national level leadership, Fire and Aviation Management leaders, legal counsel, and law enforcement – which reflects our commitment to this important work and our promise to share in the accountability for any and all outcomes.

I spoke with the Burn Boss last night and expressed my support for him and the actions he took in leading the prescribed burn.  In addition, I let him know it’s my expectation that the Forest Service will continue to support him throughout any legal actions.

No one person or crew is in this work on their own. I need you to know that I am with you now and into the future, whatever that future may look like.

I trust and respect our firefighters and employees who carry out the complex and dynamic mission of applying fire treatments to the landscape. They are well-trained, well-informed, and well-equipped for the mission.

Prescribed fire is critical to our responsibility to improve the health of our natural landscapes and the safety of our communities, and we are committed to continuing this work together. Thank you all for staying the course.


Updated 11:50 a.m. PDT Oct. 21, 2022

Grant County District Attorney Jim Carpenter identified the US Forest Service Fire Boss arrested as Rick Snodgrass after the Star 6 prescribed fire burned an unintended 18 to 20 acres of private land near the Malheur National Forest in Oregon.

“This case will be evaluated once the investigation is complete, and if appropriate, Snodgrass will formally be charged,” said Mr. Carpenter in a written statement. “These cases rarely have a bright line and involve a number of variables to be considered. However, to be clear, the employer and/or position of Snodgrass will not protect him if it is determined that he acted recklessly. That the USFS was engaging in a prescribed burn may actually raise, rather than lower the standard to which Snodgrass will be held.”


Updated 8 p.m. PDT Oct. 20, 2022

Grant County Sheriff Todd McKinley told Wildfire Today that when the Malheur National Forest’s Star 6 prescribed fire escaped control and spread onto the privately owned Holliday Ranch the ranch employees “were actually out helping them try to catch the fire and prevent it from doing more damage”, but at the same time some of them were “highly upset.”

Sheriff McKinley said the US Forest Service Burn Boss who was arrested and charged with Reckless Burning did not have to post bail, but met the criteria for “conditional release.” The Sheriff said Forest Supervisor Craig Trulock was at the Sheriff’s Office.

We asked the Sheriff about the report that the arrest was made to de-escalate a tense situation going on with armed private landowners.

“They may have been armed,” he said, “but we are not aware of that. There were definitely some landowners that were highly upset.”

“Determining the rest, honestly, Bill, is getting to the bottom of why they were even burning to begin with and why they chose to burn at that time,” the Sheriff said when we asked about the next step. “You know, there’s a lot more to this. Everybody knew it was a bad burn, should not be happening. Even the fire staff out there, there are fire personnel that were on scene that are afraid to say much because, you know, their jobs. It was not the right time to burn and there may have even been means taken to get that burn done that were outside the scope. That’s kind of where it’s at. You know, it’s a really tenuous situation and more details will come out.”

“The Forest Service employee referenced in the recent reporting  was conducting an approved prescribed fire operation on the Malheur National Forest,” the Public Affairs Officer for the Forest, Mary Hamisevicz, wrote in a text message. “It would be inappropriate for us to provide further comment as this is a legal matter.”

The weather recorded at the EW3547 Seneca weather station at 2 p.m. on October 19 was 73 degrees, 16 percent relative humidity, and mostly calm winds that occasionally gusted to 3 mph.


Originally published at 12:19 p.m. PDT October 20, 2022

Map, location of Star 6 escaped prescribed fire
Map, location of Star 6 prescribed fire.

A US Forest Service employee serving as the Burn Boss on a prescribed fire was arrested Wednesday October 19 after the fire escaped and burned approximately 18 acres of private land.

The project was on the Malheur National Forest at mile post two on the Izee Highway between John Day and Seneca, Oregon.

Grant County Sheriff Todd McKinley issued a statement Thursday saying the escaped fire burned lands belonging to the Holliday Ranches on the “hot afternoon of October 19, 2022.”

The statement read in part:

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 39-year-old Forest Service employee for Reckless Burning, and transported him to the Grant County Jail. The employee was assigned as the fire’s “burn boss.”

The Sheriff’s office said they are working with the Forest Service to determine the events that led to the escaped fire.

The Star 6 prescribed fire was intended to burn 362 acres. The US Forest Service said on Twitter the escape was caught within an hour at 18 acres, but failed to mention that the Burn Boss was arrested. The Sheriff said it burned approximately 20 acres.

Phone calls to Forest Supervisor Craig Trulock and Blue Mountain District Ranger Sally Christenson were not immediately returned.

This is the first time to this author’s knowledge that a Federal Burn Boss has been arrested for an escaped prescribed fire.

After the 2001 Thirtymile Fire, a Crew Boss was charged with 11 felonies related to the entrapment and burnover deaths of four firefighters who were on his hand crew. He was facing the possibility of decades in prison, but the Assistant U. S. Attorney, perhaps realizing he did not have a winnable case, allowed him to plead guilty to two misdemeanors of making a false statement in an Administrative hearing. Seven years after the fire, he was sentenced to three months of incarceration in a work-release program and three years of probation.

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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.

208 thoughts on “Forest Service Burn Boss arrested after prescribed fire escapes in Oregon”

  1. Let’s just hope he has his AgLearn diversity, inclusiveness, equity done. Any investigation needs to start there.

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  2. Another key distinction between the arrest of Ellreese Daniels and the Malheur imbroglio is that Daniels was charged with violating federal law. Thus none of the federal employee immunities from state law prosecution applied in his case.

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  3. In the article it states “To our knowledge this is the first time a federal government firefighter has been arrested at a fire for conducting their assigned duties;” but if you go to YouTube and type in “firefighter arrested” you get tons of videos of firefighters getting arrested for tampering with evidence, arson, DWI, child porn, human trafficing, molestation, rape, and the list goes on and on. So, I’m not so sure why people are so upset about this guy getting arrested. They should be more upset when people get promoted for setting private property on fire. I still don’t understand why some people are protected and others are not. It this a sex or race thing? I’m just curious! Would be covering this if he was a woman or if he was black? I just think there’s more to this story and inquiring minds want to know!!!

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    1. SR,

      In response to your Pulitzer Prize winning question:

      It really is more a matter of semantics in this case, although you nailed the rest of it!

      We are not actually assigned to do all the extra curricular activities you mentioned. Of course, the larger and more powerful orcmasters we work for tacitly encourage all of it by beating us with the razorvines, but everything you mentioned besides the arson is usually done after work, officially at least, when we retreat for the night to the subterranean lairs, opium dens, gladiatorial pits, abattoirs, slave pens, pirate ships or cardboard boxes we call home. Thanks youtube!

      Good question and commentary as usual though!

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      1. Wow, and yet during the day USFS seem so regular…….but you just never know what happens when the night falls.

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    2. Pretty sure when Ellreese Daniel’s was arrested while doing his job it was covered quite widely.

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      1. I believe Elreese was arrested quite awhile after the fact, not while on a fire. The distinction being that an investigation was done first to determine if he could be be detained and tried.

        As far as the other obvious implication here? Yeah, it got a lot of media coverage and I doubt SR has any idea he was black… because that would take about 3 minutes of research too long..

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          1. I believe Elreese Daniels was a scapegoat for mismanagement at several levels above him. I think that he did the best he could under the circumstances that he was placed in. Federal manslaughter charges were reduced to lying to investigators. Civil suits against him were dismissed. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirtymile_Fire

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            1. I was helping out with an L-380 course, just being the guy who runs around freaking out for the scenario. One of the cadre was retired WO and was involved in some of the stuff happening behind the scenes when Elreese got tossed under the machine for 30 Mile, he said something similar. That Elreese pretty much got to be the punching bag for a lot of stuff that wasn’t his fault.

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  4. We all know that due to the warming climate there are less relatively safe windows of time for prescribed burns now. From the USFS, and others POV, we need to increase fuel treatments by 4X just to keep up with what is needed to manage forests. And add to that the lack of NF personnel and outdated equipment. This could be improved, but clearly not very fast. Increasing fuel treatments simply cannot be done. The math does not work. There almost certainly needs to be less treatments done. These escaped burns are too damaging, and yes, the public is getting very angry.

    That leaves managed wildfire for resource benefit, but at least in Northern NM, they simply are not going to do it for the most part. There are too many at risk communities. It’s not like there are large areas of forest where a fire can be allowed to burn. It doesn’t take long before a fire will reach populated areas.

    So that leaves full suppression. I think we are going to have to go increasingly back to full suppression. There will be plenty of fire on the landscape. Even the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire did burn in about a normal proportion of high, medium and low severity. If you believe that mixed severity fire is ecologically beneficial in the long run, then the forests will be getting what benefits them. Along with a lot of bulldozer lines and flame retardants, which does not ultimately benefit anything. And people suffering from the loss of green forests.

    I am so deeply sorry for those living in forest communities who now have to live in a blackened forest. No matter what perspective one has, it’s really painful. Unless one can manage to come to appreciate a post-fire habitat. And I wonder what will happen if much of our forest is in a post-fire condition. What will happen to the ecosystem as a whole, and even the climate?

    Everyone wants firefighters to be safe. So maybe fuels treatments should be mostly focused on strategically placing firefighter safety zones in the forest, and providing safe travel corridors. And then, of course, much more attention on fire hardening homes and creating defensible space. Forest communities with a single egress need to have an additional egress created. Usually that involve a mixture of public and private lands, and is complicated. But if human life is a focus, that can save lives.

    And I think firefighters should be paid so much more than they currently receive, and that they be respected as some of the most stellar members of our society. They should not be put in the position of having to burn at questionable times. The powers that be need to do their basic math — they can’t increase prescribed burns with decreasing burn windows, staffing and inadequate equipment. They need to get real, and not leave burn bosses taking the heat — unless there truly is a rogue burn boss who does something clearly egregious.

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    1. Or we could tax everyone an extra couple bucks and work to hire, train and retain a workforce that focuses on prescribed fire, instead of one workforce doing everything. An expanded workforce is the only way forward without just blackening the entire west. It would take congress to fund prevention, and forests to stop cutting module budgets so we can only have minimum staffing, instead of allowing experienced people to earn slightly higher pay. Lots of stuff, but Sarah you are probably right. Back to full suppression it is.

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      1. It could be both. I don’t believe there are enough safe burn windows to greatly increase PB, nor will the public tolerate the air pollution. What about doing as you suggest, but really targeting PB to protect mostly values, and the greatest value being firefighter’s lives? And perhaps seriously overgrown areas, during the safest prescribed burn windows. I just don’t see that expanding the PB program is viable. Making it better and safer may be.

        I don’t know if the evidence is there that the benefit of widespread burning outweighs the risks, and the public health impacts.

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        1. Sarah, great points. The problem with prioritizing PB where it would protect mostly values (private property) is that we are getting arrested now haha, at the most critical locations where forests butt up to private property…

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          1. Didn’t the fire service just get a giant dump of money? Never enough. Always need more. Just keep hitting the taxpayers. Never look at the insane waste in the system.

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            1. ‘Yes, I keep wondering where all those funds have gone. Nothing seems to have come of them. Maybe eventually?

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              1. They are mostly being spent on contractors and creating new executive positions for the regional offices I’d guess.

                The big issue here is that fuels work and Rx burns specifically are not incentivized. I may take the risk of being arrested if I was making a living wage, but once the fires are done I’d rather go to a couple classes, work on my EMT recertification, and then get laid off.

                There are a lot of reasons NOT to burn for us lowely employees, and no incentives TO burn.

                So they can spend all the money they want, but the emporer has no clothes, and good luck finding people to do the burns.

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  5. A rational response to having an escaped controlled burn onto one’s property is, maybe, help contain it then file a standard claim to the government for monetary loss. What has this country come to? I was in Vietnam in the war and if I accidentally shot and killed a peasant’s water buffalo, they could file a claim and get reimbursed.

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  6. From 1945 until the early 1980’s, the California Division of Forestry (CDF) administered a Range Improvement program that permitted ranchers to burn their land on a largescale basis every summer. From 1945 to 1973 over 2.5 million acres were burned under this program. The rancher was usually the burn boss and much of the holding force were ranchers as well. CDF would supply a couple pumpers and maybe a dozer and an inmate crew to assist. The local ranger would attend to act as liaison and step in if things got away.

    What is really notable is that in this same period, over 191,000 acres were recorded as “burned by escape”. Litigation in those days usually meant repairing the neighbors fences. Often the rancher whose lands burned in the “escape” was helping with the original burn. Overwhelming though, I think most everyone realized that on the land wasn’t such a bed thing..

    Here is a link to a contemporary report:
    https://ucanr.edu/repository/fileaccess.cfm?article=157887&p=UHGJJX

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  7. I’m reaching out to you today on a very important and concerning issue that many of you may have seen in the news or social media.

    This week, there was an incident in the Pacific Northwest Region where a Forest Service Burn Boss was arrested while leading a prescribed fire that crossed over onto private lands. They were engaging in appropriate, coordinated, and vital prescribed fire work alongside state and other colleagues approved and supported by the Agency Administrator. In my opinion, this arrest was highly inappropriate under these circumstances, and I will not stand idly by without fully defending the Burn Boss and all employees carrying out their official duties as federal employees.

    This employee should not have been singled out, and we are working to address these unfortunate circumstances on their behalf. This also prompted me to want to reach out to all of you and remind you of how important you are to the success of the Forest Service. You will always have my support and the same from your regional and local leadership. I will aggressively engage to ensure our important work across the country is allowed to move forward unhampered as you carry out duties in your official capacity.

    Prescribed fire is a critical tool for reducing wildfire risk, protecting communities, and improving the health and resiliency of the nation’s forest and grasslands. This is the work I and your leaders ask you to do – no one is in this work alone. We must, and will, remain committed to learning and sharing the risk and responsibility together, always.

    Thank you for all you do.

    Randy Moore
    Chief
    Forest Service
    Washington Office

    Caring for the land and serving people

    Email sent around 6 pm Pacific time, Friday 10/21/22

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  8. Let’s focus on the prescription with weather and fuel moisture conditions and also the bigger picture of the fire season lingering on past the normal ending date. What exactly was the prescription including fuel moistures? With no wind how did the fire leave the burn unit? How much pressure was there to burn when the weather was predicted to change to wetter and cooler? We are basically going to winter in a day or two. I suspect that either the prescription was faulty or ignored? Hopefully not the latter. Prescribed fire will always carry risks, but all the i’s have to be dotted and t’s crossed. It seems they may not have been in this case? 20 acres may not be very large unless you own it.

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    1. One short trip to the pokey might not seem like much either unless you end up there trying to perform some qual you may or likely may not even be required to even carry. It seems a lot less fun than sitting around monitoring some fire collecting H and passing 12 “thank you firefighters” signs on the way back to the hotel, but that’s just my version of fun.

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    2. I expect an investigation will look at the prescription. It’ll also look at the burn boss’s implementation of that prescription – the spot weather forecast, BEHAVE runs, crew assignments, the unit log, etc. Another point of review will be the on-site weather and how it compares to the forecast. I’ve bossed many burns where the actual weather significantly diverged from the forecast; for example, a RH that’s 10 percentage points lower then predicted. How did the burn boss react to the unplanned? One can’t just turn a burn off. It’s easy to armchair quarterback a burn after the fact, it’s different when it’s happening.

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      1. 100% been on a lot of burns as a grunt or subordinate overhead, there is a point at which the toothpaste is out of the tube and the conditions don’t care about a document. You can only capture intented outcome and parameters on a burn plan, you can’t actually dictate the outcome in spite of nature and chaos. Not jealous of anyone with the qual. I am actually finding myself proud of Moore’s response here and I think it is a very appropriate first step.

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  9. USDA subsidy information for Holliday Land & Livestock Inc

    Holliday Land & Livestock Inc received payments totaling $532,889 from 1995 through 2020’‡’;

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      1. Because they receive gov’ conservation subsidies and disaster subsidies, that permits the federal govt to ignite their land on fire without coordination and permission? It’s that reasoning right there why many landowners and ranchers don’t like the federal govt but spoken like a truly federal employee. Nice!!

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        1. I think he was speaking more to the fact that often those whining the loudest about government spending, welfare, entitlement, etc. also are receiving a handout from said government. The Bundy’s were another example of this behavior, and last I checked old Cliven still owes the US taxpayers 100k plus in unpaid grazing feed.

          When it comes down to it the Federal grazing allotments and ag subsidies are a sweet deal for the ranchers. They don’t get that kind of generosity on private land. And the other reality is the federal government allows grazing on all sorts of arid western land where most measures indicate it flat should not be done. Raising hungry, thirsty livestock in a desert or dry sage scrub is a foolish enterprise.

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        2. I can’t speak for them, however I don’t think that is what they mean. I think that what they are saying- is that there is a misperception by the public thinking that the ranchers and others don’t benefit in any way from the federal government. Such as the exceptionally low cost to graze on fs land, which actually costs the fs money. I don’t think anyone is happy, or doesn’t care that the ranchers land was burned. These are people who work hard and take pride in doing their job well. Many go above and beyond, but you never hear about them. Mistakes happen, yes some have dire consequence, so I would invite you to offer realistic solutions, not just complaints and mud throwing.

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  10. Holistically speaking when discussing fuels management, we could re-introduce more aggressive timber harvests on federal ground. We have gone away from using true timber harvests as a way to manage fuels. The small limited timber sales that are sold on each forest on the east side of Oregon are in my opinion not enough nor large enough in scale to help in addressing the desperate need to restore forest health that provides benefits to all who use our public lands.

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    1. 100%. Sustainable forest management by logging and utilizing our forest products is the correct approach and was the basis for forming the National Forests originally. Followed up with planting and TSI to re-establish the forest. Management of the forest by fire is unsafe, polluting, and too large and expensive to ever become a reality. I am not against prescribed burning for silvicultural reasons or even fuel reduction in non-merchantable forest types but for now, the USFS has not earned the trust from the public to continue.
      Sustainable forest management and a huge investment in aggressive initial attack is what is best for the land in these times and would satisfy most of the tax paying public which is in fact who the federal agencies serve.

      signed, 43 years in fire, 28 as ATGS, simultaneously 35 years in forestry including appraisal and sales administration.

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  11. If you stay within the scope of the burn plan I believe the agency will support you in the legal side of things. And yes, if you are an RXB2 or RXB1 you want to hang on to that qual for the good of the agency, your district, your forest and the tax payer. On top of that you probably worked hard for that qual. A good burn plan doesn’t doesn’t mean 100% success, it’s a team effort, burn boss, firing, holding, ect. To bring it back around operate within the scope of the plan. Good conversation, keep it up, play nice

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    1. And yes, if you are an RXB2 or RXB1 you want to hang on to that qual for the good of the agency, your district, your forest and the tax payer.

      Incredible line of thought.
      I’ll keep my RX quals when a ranger or Park Superintendent assumes the risk associated with burning. My pay remains the same either way so why put my neck on the line for an agency that can’t even answer simple inquires to the BIL. Also a large majority of the burning has no effect on stopping the scale of fire we are seeing these days. I’m good with lapsing or keeping current with tech reviews. I’ll encourage those that work for me to do the same. My days of thinking I’m doing some sort of special work or need to do things “for the good of the” shitty “agency” i work for are long gone.

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  12. I covered the refuge several years ago. This was a year or two after the stand off where the militia took over. There were still bullet holes in the walls and everything. We were told not to go to certain places on the refuge because the ranchers would shoot at you. If it is true he was arrested to de escalate the ranchers than that’s absolutely ridiculous.

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  13. Burn plans don’t grant immunity, but if you follow them the agency should back you up with legal representation. You can also write the best burn plan in the universe and it doesn’t mean shit because there is always a chance something can go wrong. At the end of the day a successful RX was a team effort, burn boss, firing group, holding group, ect. And yes, you do want to keep the RXB qual because you probably worked hard for it. It benefits the agency and your an asset to your district, forest, and the taxpayer. And to bring it back around I do believe that if you operate within the scope of the plan the agency will back you. Good discussion, keep it going, play nice.

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  14. What sort of fuels was this burn in? I.e. wondering if there was a lot of fine and flashy etc? How do you write a burn plan for that sort of model without having some narrow margins? Not being rhetorical, but seriously, I’ve been on a ton of range fires that went 0-60-0 with just a small fluctuation in RH. They would gobble up 100k plus acres and everything would go to hair in the butter and then a day later just die out. It isn’t like writing the specs for a machined piece of equipment, where you can just adjust the press as needed.

    Can you write a practical burn plan for that without some serious risk of falling outside it with even a small unpredicted condition shift? What is the RH difference between cheat grass carrying and not carrying for example?

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  15. I find it interesting that someone as naive and ignorant on the topic, and with a history of poor decision-making, Lenya Quinn-Davidson would make the comment: “It’s an isolated example, and I would not anticipate that it would have a big impact on work that’s going on across the West.” She is a fire “advisor” with the University of California Cooperative Extension and the director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council. God help us if she has a voice in anything. To ignore this, knowing the history of people throughout the west who are itching to fight, arrest and probably harm federal employees, is to ignore history and a very very bad precedent to take. I hope that people in her position take care, think and pay attention to history prior to making statements like hers. However, if I am incorrect and this just blows over because it’s an isolated example, I will eat my words. However common sense, history and situational awareness says otherwise.

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  16. Several comments have suggested that following the burn plan might confer some kind of immunity from the criminal charge of “reckless burning.” The burn boss writes the burn plan in the first instance. Thus, even if the boss followed the plan, the plan itself could be evidence of the burn boss’s recklessness if the plan was written without regard to generally accepted burn parameters. In sum, there are at least two ways the burn boss could be burned (sorry!) by the plan — he wrote a bad plan or he didn’t follow the plan he wrote.

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    1. You can be a burn boss and not have written the plan. I’d like to know for what reason I or anyone else would want to keep a burn boss qual if not required. For the good of the agency and the great cause of prescribed fire!? I think not. Assume all kinds of risk with little backing/support. I myself have too much to lose to light anything on a prescribed unit. All risk no gain. Let the ones collecting the bonuses be the responsible parties, and they know who they are.

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    2. Andy, the Burn Boss on any given day may not be the person who wrote the plan. Most units try to keep plans on the shelf to be implemented down the road. I am not familiar with the specific language in Oregon’s reckless burning statute, but if the plan was written by someone other than the Burn Boss, I doubt they ( the burn plan writer) would have any criminal exposure, would they? You know a lot more than I about environmental law in OR than I. Off topic, but it’s good to see you’re still around, we met ages ago when I was the Director of The Survival Center at U of O.

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      1. Safe to say that the writer of the burn plan, if not present and engaged actively in the burn operation itself, is safe from criminal prosecution for “reckless burning” under Oregon law.

        “To obtain a conviction under the reckless burning statute, the state generally has to prove (1) that the defendant performed an act that caused a fire or explosion so as to damage another person’s property;  (2) that the act presented such a substantial and unjustifiable risk of damaging the property that only a person demonstrating a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care would perform it;  and (3) that the defendant was aware of the risk and chose to disregard it.”

        https://caselaw.findlaw.com/or-court-of-appeals/1262333.html

        In sum, writing a burn plan does not cause a fire.

        As Bill noted in his post, the circumstances presented by this arrest are a first; in legal parlance “a case of first impression.” That being said, there are well-established parameters in Oregon law for the crime of reckless burning. Nor does the public employee status of the accused affect the application of criminal law, e.g., the George Floyd murder by on-duty police officers just doing their jobs.

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        1. I must correct my earlier comment. Federal employees are not regular public employees. Federal employees can only be prosecuted for violating state law if two conditions are met: (1) Was the employee performing an act that federal law authorized him to perform? (2) Were his actions necessary and proper to fulfilling his federal duties?

          I don’t think a jury will ever see this case.

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    3. Andy Stahl, I’m glad you inserted; “… at least two ways…” that the burn boss can be burned. Because depending on the bias of the judge/magistrate and/or the prosecuting attorney there will likely be more than two.

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      1. “The burn boss is responsible for the writing of burn plans, determining when the burn is in prescription, obtaining smoke clearance and weather forecasts, notifying officials of the upcoming burn, obtaining all qualified personnel and equipment needed to conduct and patrol the burn. The burn boss must also ensure all operations are conducted in a safe manner and considers personnel and public safety during and after the burn.”

        https://www.blm.gov/or/resources/fire/prescribedburns/burn_terminology.php

        The defense of “I was just following the plan” works best for those at the lowest end of the totem pole with the least individual responsibility. At the other end of the spectrum is the “boss” who is generally held to a much higher standard. The boss is expected to make independent judgments, e.g., “does the burn plan make sense in the here-and-now?” A burn boss who ignores warning signs, but sticks to the four corners of the plan (regardless of who wrote the plan), could be deemed to have acted “recklessly” by a jury.

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    4. Andrew,
      Ahem, the Burn Boss does not always write the plan, sometimes a Burn Boss implements an extant plan. Burn Plans have to be tech reviewed by other burn bosses of an equal or higher qualification and signed by an Agency Admin before they’re valid. Additionally, models have to be run based upon the presciption and thenoitputs have to be included in the plan.
      As far as “generally accepted burn parameters” the burn plan is an agency authorized template that compels the author to stay in bounds. There is no such thing as “generally accepted burn parameters”, that is specious and reeks of ignorance. I take it you neither a burn boss or a fire professional? It’s OK, a lot of lay people comment on these threads so I’m happy to educate you.

      The totality of the process creates a very strong defense if the RXB follows the parameters in the plan and the fire still gets declared. It also makes it abundantly obvious if the RXB egregiously deviates.

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  17. No need to to moderate the chat, who cares if people call us names. If your an RXB2 don’t let your qual go, just operate within the prescription of the burn plan. If your a true leader and mentor in fire teach the new guys, because they will be running firing, or holding, on the torch, or in the hold on that next RX. Now on the flip side, if someone did something accidentally or intentionally to burn up some of your land you may be pissed too. As an agency we need to figure out why that happened and fix it. Let’s not forget RX is a planned event.

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    1. There is a lot broken with the agency. Lot of us wondering if it is really worth working for it anymore. Even if we do really care about those folks under us and want good things for them and we like the work itself. More and more the math isn’t working out in our favor. Much less so if there is a chance you end up in jail.

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  18. How many times does someone get to call firefighters leeches, terrorists, arsonists, clowns and worse before moderation kicks in?

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  19. I am not even going to engage into any sort of debate over the character or perceived lack of character of firefighters. For the same the reason I wouldn’t do it over any other large segment of a workforce. There are going to be competent and incompetent people.

    I would like to point out though, that when someone makes a mistake in any given occupation dealing with a lot of guesswork, the consequences of the mistake do not have any bearing on the soundness of the decisions made.

    There is a difference between the integrity of the decision and the effects of it. This is why an anesthesiologist is paid more than nearly any other medical position, not because they need to make a lot more decisions, or because they need to do a lot more things than a surgeon, but because the consequences of a misguess are profoundly heavy. This also why we are content to settle for a meteorologist being regularly wrong about the weather without demanding they be put in the stocks.

    I’ve been a firefighter for 20 years now, performing up to the Division trainee level. Nearly every major decision I make on a fire is not based around static information. I have to make a guess, based on my experiences and a lot of very perishable data and I have to live with the outcome, which isn’t a burger getting to a customer with onions they didn’t want on it.

    Not here though to talk about what happened, because I wasn’t there. However, I can speak confidently about what will or will not happen and it is pretty simple:

    1) The agency will either choose to openly support the employee or they will not. This will have a very immediate impact on anyone else holding the Burn Boss qualification. Anyone who is not required to hold the qualification (which is a lot of us) will then decide if it is worth holding based on what the agency decides. Since many of us are not paid to have the qualification, or many of the other ones that we hold, this may be a pretty easy choice to weigh. (I am not required to hold any qualification besides IC5 and FFT1 for my job for example, I actually pay for liability insurance partly from my own pocket to perform in the positions I am not required to do. You’re welcome.)

    2) While the agency decides what to do, the world will continue to become hotter and drier. The world will do this whether we do prescribed fire or not, whether we post here or not, whether we argue or not, whether the agencies exist or not and whether people exist or not. That toothpaste is out of the tube and cannot be put back in. This same measurable and constant progress will reduce the windows we can effectively burn, wet things don’t burn and dry things burn more and there will be more and more situations where windows to effectively burn decrease because of the latter.

    3) People will continue to move into areas that have fuel loadings that will lead to explosive fire spread in the urban interface and people will continue to choose to perform or not perform the treatments on their properties that will affect what fire does when it enters their property. Fire will continue to disregard property lines unequivocally. A fire that we start on purpose will do the same thing as a fire we don’t start if the conditions are the same. Fire is static in that regard.

    4) The agency will continue to increase the scale of treatments to try to accomodate items 2 and 3 or they will not. This will not affect whether 2 and 3 continue to happen, those are also fairly static. The agency will either keep pace with this or they will not.

    5) Fires will start no matter what. Whether we get the sagebrush rebellion libertarian wet dream or not, whether an agency is allowed to start them somewhat on our terms or not, fires will start. In places with flashy fuels, such as bunch grass and sagebrush, those fires will be harder to control. If the agency starts them, then the agency is responsible for losing them. If they do not start them, the agency has less accountability when trying to suppress them. If the agency is poorly funded or uses funding poorly and if experienced and qualified people are increasingly hard to field, then the agency will be less effective at supressing fires. Fires will still not care or moderate themselves in this.

    6) If the federal agencies reduce their footprint in fire or land mangement, a void will occur and will naturally be filled by other agencies or public entities. These entities may do a better job and they may do a worse job. But they will be forced into some sort of action by this void. I suppose time will tell how this goes, because it is becoming inevitable.

    7) I’ll retire. This will create a small competancy gap which will also be filled or will not. If no one wants to work for the agency, then revert to item 6. If the private or non-federal entities can do my job better than I do? Great! If not? Bummer! I won’t care. I have no intention of living in Clark County.

    That’s the deal. Oscar Wilde said something to the effect that the two greatest tragedies in life are not getting what you want and getting what you want and we’ll all get one of the two. Namecalling federal wildland firefighters is a very galvanic thing to do, so hopefully it is meant with some conviction at the very least. Good luck.

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  20. Bill, just to clarify, the “crew boss” on the 30 Mile fire was THE INCIDENT Commander, not just a crew boss. In addition, in his personnel file, he was told several times that he was not I.C. Qualified before the 30 Mile incident but yet the Forest put him in charge any way. This fatal incident started the down fall of the USFS , just stating the fact.

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  21. Quite the event up there in Oregon. I’m from Sonoma County CA where in October 2017 wild fire burned 9000 homes to the ground in Santa Rosa our biggest city.

    Controlled burns are not just necessary part of managing our forests and open spaces public and private from the outrageous and out of control blatant devastation from today’s climate changed wildfires, but essential for saving most of the trees that make up our forests that we aren’t left with no forests at all. What happened naturally before we were here now must be done in controlled settings by brave people.

    Because of controlled burns by certain park rangers even during times other authorities feared the worst, our giant Ancient Sierra sequoia whether Ed the biggest longest and worse fire in California history which occured during last year’s fire season.

    Controlled burns are dangerous and can get out of control in the best of conditions and under anyone’s watch. They must still be done less we want to continue to battle blazes that are forever worse. They are the only means we have to really ever gain ground against these worsening fires.

    Therefore, it takes the entire community to be supporting our stolid fire fighting teams especially when they are negotiating burns. That includes private land owners and there precious land lest they prefer lose both there land and there life when wildfire turns their unkept terrain into an inferno.

    That a Sheriff would arrest a burn boss, that the legal system would seek to charge one felonies for the agonizing losses of part of his burn crew is unconscionable and you are a community that had better get your priorities in order and never let these actions occur in your community again.

    Shame on the land owners who sound like they need spend a couple weeks behind bars themselves for there actions. Support your fireman land owners for Christ Sake. And community, take a hard look at that Sheriff. If his intentions were to protect or were his actions were a political support of those I’ll willed complainers. Because that would mean dismissed, Good Luck

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  22. Grow A Backbone and Longtime Fire Manager together have the total perspective of that situation nailed. A good portion of the rest of the comments showed some federal employees with severe superiority complexes.
    A few years back a couple of ranchers named Hammond were arrested and charged with the federal crime of terrorist arson for burning approximately the same acreage of BLM ground. They served five years and I think three years, plus $100,000 fine. The entire story is very convoluted, but still leaves people thinking there is a double standard.

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    1. The utter arrogance and utter incompetence of so many career-long federal wildland firefighters is now so common. They dont care one iota if they burn private property, as long as they get their jollies of putting fire on the ground. Look at some of the comments from some of the wildland firefighters on this page. They want no accountability, because they act so self-righteous and foolhardy, that their actions are justified. It’s now a plague because today’s firefighters spend most of their time drip torching the landscape and standing back and watching it burn. WOW, what a tough job. The feds are causing so many large fires, and few bat an eye. Let’s hero worship them for their actions of being nothing more than arsonists.

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      1. Man, if I was in charge of things I’d pull BLM and the FS out of any mutual aid agreements and let everything, including federal lands (where you harvest timber and recreate), burn. Ya’ll can “manage” things yourselves.

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        1. They only talk shit when their property isn’t in immediate danger. Nor do they realize that the majority of ALL FIRES are started by lightning and not forest service employees out there dragging fire everywhere they go. I’m with you…to hell with these folks whom have no idea of what is actually going on out there. If they want to talk shit, let them fight the fires themselves. I’m not exposing myself to any of the bullshit of the job to help anyone like this.

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    2. The Hammonds started two different fires. One in 2001 was started to destroy evidence that they had been poaching, burning 123 acres. A second one in 2006 they lit threatened to entrap firefighters who were already working a fire. Nothing about “terrorist” arson, but the Hammond fires were much larger in terms of acres burned and criminality

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    3. That is an incredible misrepresentation of the criminal conduct of the Hammonds. I suggest educating yourself on that case before presenting it as a comparable situation.

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  23. Please understand that this recently elected sheriff is probably the result of right wing efforts in that region to fight the feds at every level whenever and wherever possible. 18 acres is no big deal. This is purely a political action. These people believe we should be raking the forests.

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    1. 18 acres is a big deal. It’s not your property, so why do you care if it affects a peon in the public, right?

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        1. Tell you what, when you learn the difference between then and than, people might take you seriously. As of now, no one does.

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          1. Talking shit about those on the ground, fighting the fights, and trying to help the land by calling them clowns and leeches? I bet you are nothing more than a welfare ranching cyst of the west. Talk about a tax leech.

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  24. I have a lot of questions…Who was the meteorologist or ARA on this Rx Burn? Who was in-charge? Who signed off on this burn? Was the burn plan followed? What were the variances? I mean, what’s the point of having burn plans and FMPs if they aren’t going to be followed? Either way this will set a precedent. Will the FS back you up? In my experience, I’d say NO!!! But, maybe they will back him up. Which goes back to the original question why does the FS help or protect some people and let others go to jail? Inquiring minds want to know!!!

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    1. A lot of these questions will be answered in due time, but this will set some precedents for RX fire.

      Years ago when the Burn Boss class was all combined in RX-300, we had the US District Attorney from AZ (Phoenix I think) talk to the class about about liability for burn bosses. He had been FF in summers during college and had a good feel for our industry

      I’m assuming most of what he told us still holds true today, but he went through many stories about federal employees who had done things way outside agency, but technically within their scope of duty. In those examples, the government defended the action of the employees. Some of these examples were off the charts. Things like DEA agents causing vehicle accidents while intoxicated or high claiming they had to use drugs to keep their cover. I think another was a couple of FS employees modifying a dart gun (after being told not to by supervisor) and causing it to explode severely injuring someone.

      With that, I would expect the US government will defend the actions in this instance. Even if there are some things that may have been outside the burn plan (I have no idea if this was the case), the government will likely step in. If the guy is a solid bb and the plan was being followed even better.

      I’m referring only to civil actions though. Criminal actions are different. Everyone knows about the CRWB from 30 mile, but there was a similar situation with an ICT3 in Idaho in the 2000s that faced criminal charges for the death of a firefighter.

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      1. Many on this thread state the burn boss needs to stay within prescription, and not go outside the burn plan. Ok, here’s a scenario that’s not uncommon: the burn plan calls for a low RH of 25%, with desired flame lengths from 3-4′, although 2-5′ are acceptable. The spot calls for a low RH of 28%, and all other parameters are a go, so the burn starts. At 1300, when the burn is 1/4 to 1/3 complete, the FEMO calls out a RH of 23%, and a PIG of 40%. The FL, however, are 3-4′, which is desirable. After consulting with holding, the burn boss decides that, since the fire behavior is within the desirable range, and the PIG is < 70%, to carry on with the burn. He tells the FEMO to go from recording weather every hour to every 1/2 hour. The RH bottoms out at 18%, but the fire behavior remains acceptable, and the burn is successfully completed. All this is recorded in the unit log. So, did the burn boss go outside the burn plan?

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  25. I’m disgusted by all the ignorant comments in this thread. If you have never been a wildland firefighter or participated in RX you should probably quit commenting about tactics. If your a landowner in the rural western US, you can’t complain about RX close to your property, and then be that same homeowner that expects the government to subsidize your Insurance payout when your community burns down in a wildland event, (this is happening every year in CA and Oregon). The federal government has two real options here. 1. If they can’t support their wildland workforce and the unattended consequences of RX they should quit expecting to carry out RX. 2. At the very least, support and fund RX and fuels treatments the same way they do wildland incidents. Why do we staff RX fires with 1/10th the workforce and work them 10 hour days with no hazard pay. In California, Cal-Fire has also lost their share of burns, but atleast they staff them accordingly with the proper amount of resources.

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    1. If you desire the social license to be a practitioner of fire, then coming out of the gate with attacks is the wrong approach. Though we may not agree with all comments, taking time to understand the perspective of those taking the time to comment whether tactfully or not is how we move forward. Without widespread buyin across the populace, the social license will disappear. Landowners, public, and wildland fire professionals ALL have a seat at the table. So before calling others’ comments ignorant, you might want to ensure yours aren’t in that same category.

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      1. Play politician in your public meeting dude. They just arrested an RX boss for doing his job and people are calling him an arsonist. One of the big problems is long time fire managers are more concerned with public perception than doing right by their workforce.

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        1. What RT said☝?

          it’s that freaking simple. Two elected officials, aka politicians, arrested a burn boss for doing his job. Everything else is chatter. This counties leadership is trash

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    2. 1. 1/10th the workforce of what? Who writes the burn plan, the staffing needed should be accurate and spelled out specifically in the BP. Contingency resources should have been and are now required to be spelled out to include response time.
      2. There is no 10 hour requirement for Rx. You can staff overnight if need be, you can roll 16hr shifts.
      3. H-Pay for what? It’s Rx, by that standard no one should be in a hazardous position. It’s not “hard work pay”. If it is hazardous, then the Rx plan is out of sorts.

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      1. Yessir

        1.The workforce is dramatically less on RX and is generally the minimal required number. That’s a fact. One of the goals on RX fire is to stay within budget, budgets should be bigger and workforce requirements should be based on some sort of worst case scenario. Haveing contingency resources more readily available is a good step.
        2. Of the 100+ RX shifts I have been on I’ve never staffed one 24 hours a day, I’ve never gotten anything over 13 hour shifts…because the cost component.
        3. 75% of the RX fires I have been on I’m sucking in more smoke and particulate matter than my average wildland shift. If wildland fire smoke is being proven to be hazardous for the general population, then the condensed smoke that Crews on RX fire are exposed to is hazardous as well. Hence the hazard pay. Also tell the Burn Boss who was almost lynched yesterday by armed landowners that RX shifts are not hazardous.

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      2. Yessir,
        1. If RX fires were adequately staffed why are we losing so many of them. Also I am not a burn boss but I have spent a lot of shifts on RX fires.. You can not say that managment objectives and RX staffing are not budget driven. It seems like most burn plans are based on minimum number of holding resources.
        2. Of the 100+ RX shifts I have been on we’ve never staffed overnight, in fact I’ve never staffed longer than 13 hour days…
        3. Smoke exposure is generally much worse for crews assigned to RX incidents than to wildland fires. It’s being proven that smoke exposure is hazardous to the general public hundreds of a miles away from a wildland incident, so it’s probably extremely hazardous to firefighters working in condensed areas. Hence the hazard pay. Also tell the burn boss that was nearly lynched by homeowners on Wednesday that RX is not hazardous. Quit trying to shortchange your workforce.

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      3. Yessir,

        H-pay for inhaling smoke with a scientifically proven deadly concentration of carcinogens and PM. H-pay for having to be exposed to open flame which, contrary to popular belief, can still burn human flesh even if it originates from an RX. Many people have been sent to Valhalla on Rx’s over the years. Why do we have to wear a fire shelter and PPE if it’s not hazardous? It’s very clear to us that you are living in an intellectual wilderness.

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        1. Yessir’s of the world are who’s been holding us back the last couple of decades

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      4. Yessir,

        Just because it is a prescribed fire doesn’t mean it isn’t hazardous. If its hazardous doesn’t mean the rx plan is out of sorts. We are still required to wear and use all the same PPE during a prescribed fire as we do a wild fire. The same risks and hazards exist.

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  26. Malheur gonna Malheur. Different year, same country. Good luck recruiting anyone to work in Eastern Oregon…

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  27. Bill , all … I appreciate the website and the exchange of information. Like most hot button topics this has divulged into name calling and internet hiding. The facts are presented as such ; and even then there will be two stark perspectives …. Emotions , past practices , biases etc.. Good , bad or a mix there of the event happened and I would “ hope “ that issues will surface on how to learn from this on all sides.

    The science tells us the benefits of prescribed burning , the agency mandates that we accomplish acres for restoration and wholly turn our forests back around to the status they once were , and the public deserves to be brought along the way ; in a wholly transparent way , to have buy in for what we do on “ everyone’s land.”

    We have failed at every juncture on all sides of the issue.

    While emotionally charged , and past discrepancies coming to light , how’s about everyone take a breath and agree to disagree ? What has happened to admittance to a mistake , learning as a whole , and moving on?

    I’m sure I’ll get assassinated from this line of thinking , but to all involved in the commenting … take a breath and put yourself in every participants shoes before further comments huh ?

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  28. It is unfortunate that just like anything else in this world, everyone has to resort to personal attacks upon one another versus have a free and open dialogue.

    This is an unfortunate circumstance and I feel for the burn boss. They are getting hammered for a system that is a failure. Anytime a person is burning whether public or pvt, things can go wrong. What history has shown that when a pvt landowner burns and it escapes onto federal land, the book is thrown at them and they are drug through the legal system with the entire weight of the federal govt to recoup suppression cost plus damages not to mention any charges or violations. However, when public (fed) employees burn and the fire crosses property lines, to date you are lucky to hear “sorry”. Nothing helps the pvt landowner to become whole. The claims process is a joke and takes years if not also hiring an attorney to navigate through. Most pvt landowner give up since the system is built with endless roadblocks and for many, the time and effort it takes to complete is just way too much.

    The system is one sided and people are tired of it. The issues on a wildfire and burning out 1000s of acres that also include pvt land are even greater and another can of worms.

    Fire belongs on the landscape but the system needs balanced whether that fire starts on pvt or public.

    Generally speaking, there is a lack of respect of pvt lands from the federal govt. whether that is timber, grass, fences, aesthetics, livelihoods.

    I hope the burn boss has the charges dropped but at the same time I hope the federal agencies reevaluate their program and processes or else there will likely be more of this. People are losing patience.

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  29. What a waste of electronic ink…So many details left out.
    Due to the prescription and objectives, This RH and wind may be needed.
    Less than 10% Escape. Let’s not count the escapes in wildfire we have.
    #Leadership #rxfire #torchbearr #smokeybear #training #controlledfire #torchbearraction

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  30. National Prescribed Fire Act? Might be time to open the flood gates and have a national prescribed fire policy protecting burners from smoke and fire.

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  31. I’m just an ordinary person, not a fire fighter, nor do I know anyone who is, but I have a question. I’ve read that April and October are the greatest months for wildfires. Is that true? If so, why are there “prescribed burns” happening during those two months since sometimes those burns get out of control?
    Thanks for any enlightenment you can provide.

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      1. @bill

        I thought there was a standard we who post here were held to?

        This troll with his “headline” is doing nothing to add to this discussion, instead, throwing BS out there….

        This forum needs some of the comments removed

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      1. Your average firefighter is far from some glorified genius, like the folks on this site like to present themselves. Most wildland firefighters are from poor rural areas with no economies. So, getting a menial job in the industrialized fire management complex becomes the biggest opportunity they have. It also gives them the opportunity to play the hero card over and over and over again. If I had a dime for every time a wildland firefighter on a message board like this one demanded that their jobs are never scrutinized, and that their actions are always justified i’d be a billionaire. The rhetoric has gotten very old.

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        1. This is just another person who doesn’t know what they are talking about spewing bile in an anonymous format. How many fires have you been on? Outside of a campfire, you probably haven’t been in the smoke at all. How many firefighters have you heard say they are heroes? Being one for 21 years now, I have never heard that. In actuality, they do not like being called heroes because they do not see themselves as that.

          Saying that firefighters enter the profession because they have no other options is amazingly uninformed, misguided, and incredibly insulting. You would be surprised at how many wildland firefighters have college degrees, masters degrees, and even doctorates. Of course, this wouldn’t change your opinion because you seem the type that gets an opinion, based in fact or not, and sticks with it due to ignorance.

          Next time you feel the need to be an a__hole, misplace hero worship, just don’t. Do us all a favor and keep it to yourself. This kind of toxic attitude regurgitated in an anonymous format is cowardly, dangerous, and incredibly divisive.

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        2. Nice specious argument that holds no water. Personally I have a masters from MIT and have a GS-7 working for me with a MS from Yale. Either one of us could’ve done anything we wanted but we chose this. Nearly every employee on my Dist has, at least, a 4yr college education. I’m sorry that you’re bitter, uninstructed and dark but please do not project on the rest of us. The people with the most experience and qualifications are also the most humble. They don’t wear fire garb, they don’t have stickers on their vehicles and they’re aloof to even tell anyone what they do. This is a difficult and sacrificial field and they’re just trying to fight for reasonable and prudent changes, as nearly all professions have done at one time or another. Their time is now.

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          1. Hear, hear Bob, one summer I had a module that had a second yr. with a masters in geology, and a rookie with dual degrees in forestry and recreation from VA Tech, a rookie with a bachelors in political science from Marquette, and a rookie with a degree in psychology from Washington University. They were a Staller group of young people that I still miss working with.

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              1. I hear you Matt, fire draws all types of people. I’ve been amazed by the backgrounds of some people I’ve had the privilege to speak to over the years. One individual was a 15 year SEAL sniper instructor in Coronado with a B.S.in GIS. Humblest gentleman I’d ever met. I met him on a fire and only through my annoying Socratic quizzing was I able to get him to divulge his history. Some people just want to work in the woods, and they don’t care about the titles, bureaucracy and drudgery of it all.

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        3. Many wildland firefighters are seasonal and use the income to pay their way through college. I only have a BA, but I have fought alongside people working on their PhDs.

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  32. If R6 is anything like R2 than I can almost guarantee that the Malheur was getting CRUSHING pressure to burn under any circumstances. They want acres on their spreadsheets so they can tell their masters what good little boys n girls they’ve been with the BIL money. In my two and a half decades doing this, I have never experienced this much pressure. Even when you express serious concerns they are summarily dismissed with a “but which unit are you going to burn?” It’s crazy and it’s going to and badly, or maybe it already has.

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        1. Did your Forest meet your target last year? This year? What happened……my bet…..nothing. Tell us what forest and your position on it and I’ll get to the bottom of your “crushing pressures” Marci. In R2 I am not pressured AT ALL to “burn under any circumstances” in fact, it’s quite the opposite and I run a program. RX isn’t funded with BIL money #1 it’s WFSE and NFHF and everything I have been directed to do is right place, right time, right reason and that intent flows from the RF and Ds and ADs. I have nothing but support to burn or not burn based on conditions. So my “bald face lie” is actuallly the stone cold truth.

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        2. No, it’s quite the opposite. We are not pressured at all to “burn under circumstances” and I run a fuels program. I have a direct link to the AD and would be happy to voice your concerns on your behalf….anonymously. Just let me know what Forest you’re on. The truth is Rx is closely monitored and there are people watching our backs. Did your Forest meet your target last year, this year? Do you even know? Did you know that target number is negotiated and arbitrary? Probably not. I negotiated our fuels target for the past 3 years and guess what…we didn’t meet it. Guess what happened. Nothing. So your accusation of calling me a bald face liar is false, and you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re out of you’re element Donnie. Again, let me know the Forest 1 phone call I can have the RO get to the root of and rectify you’re CRUSHING pressures to burn under any circumstances Marci.

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          1. In the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Prescribe Fire Review, it was stated that pressure to get burns done, especially since burns had been deferred in recent years contributed to igniting a burn in marginal conditions.

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  33. To all of you throwing our wildland firefighters under the bus and screaming “arsonist” how dare you. These are the people that have spent their life’s work protecting your communities and the public lands that they are employed to serve. They are underpaid, overworked and spend most of their summers mobilized around the country risking their lives, mental health and relationships with their loved ones to provide that service for you. When they aren’t suppressing fires they are activated across the nation for prescribed fire implementation and trainings. They are doing the best they can within the framework they operate within, the budgets that are approved by your politicians and are striving to do the best they can because they love this work, they love the people they serve, and they love our public lands. It is the common thread of duty, integrity and respect that binds these people. Please remember these principles when you are addressing this group of wildland fire practitioners, because they remember these principles when addressing you.

    Fire is a necessary component of the ecosystem, and this work is both a science and an art that is learned through experiences. We cannot remove it from the ecosystem and this legacy of fire suppression is what got us in to this situation. Fires will burn isn’t it better when it’s on our terms? Spots happen, lessens are learned, that’s why we have as many folks as we do on a burn and plan for contingency. 1 hour to hook an 18-acre spot fire is pretty quick. No need to stand down a program over a spot fire, and is 18 acres worth all this? Political grandstanding likely brought to you by the same folks that took over a nearby wildlife refuge. I bet next spring that 18 acres will look better than the rest of that parcel. I support my fellow burners and hope the agency supports this Burn Boss so we can continue to do this much needed work.

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    1. Very well stated, thank you! I retired from the Forest Service after 35 years in fire! I have seen and heard all the bitching, crying and Bullshit. I realize these folks need to make a living but if they would just tell the public to F-off and protect their own shit we would get them to listen then. It can be a hard job and they and we were way under appreciated and paid! Thanks again! Cheers, Patrick

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    2. Currently burn bosses are caught between a rock and a hard place. Under pressure to increase fuel treatments up to 4X current levels, and lacking the necessary amount of equipment and trained technical support personnel, in addition to increasingly dangerous conditions to carry out burns at all. It does seem it will be an endless war. That’s not what we need. Still, the burn boss did light a burn at a seemingly dangerous time. But maybe pressure was being applied to him by higher ups. What a mess. And those who do the prescribed burns are our firefighters. We do need to treat them as well as possible, and respect that they are doing a difficult job, and giving up some of their future, or even present respiratory health. For us. Thank you to firefighters.

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  34. 16% RH in that area is exceedingly low and the escape was no doubt exacerbated by the continuing problems the PNW is experiencing with fires in general. The unintended consequences in this arrest action is just as many pointed out in carrying the RX Boss qualification at all, I gave mine up long ago as the handwriting was on the wall, many of us have refused Type-III IC assignments out of home unit after the result of the Thirty Mile disaster. Fuel loading will continue to increase, politicians will scream for more action, communities will accuse the Feds of not doing enough, a vicious, predictable circle I have observed since the 1970’s!

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      1. What an interesting concept — rules for fire!

        There are no rules now. In fact, the mere concept of rules-based firefighting/burning would elicit howls of protest from the dear readers of this blog. Because, as several have mentioned, fire is an “art” that requires a close relationship with the Almighty to truly grok.

        So, for now, I’ll beg your question and pose my own. Should rules be written for firefighting/burning? Who should write them? Who should enforce them?

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        1. You smart off about the 16% RH but don’t want to anwer a question about it, instead posing three ginormous unanswerable rhetorical alternatives. Some things never change.

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            1. 16 percent is not too low, depending on other factors. RH is only one part of the equation. We conducted a burn this past week with lower RHs. You dont have a complete understanding of fire behavior.

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          1. Kelly
            He might be smarting off about 16% RH…but I do remember depending upon the conditions my ass would pucker at 16%. This spring/summer 15 % or less in NM and sometimes 11% in Nebraska on occasion

            Maybe u could do a lil collaboratin with Mr Stahl and write the 10s and 18s for RX Fire

            Good ideas always come from inside Fed wildland culture doesn’t it?

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        2. Uh, there are a lot of rules. So many rules. Burn plan, forest guidelines, forest plan, NEPA, Mob Guide, Red Book, 5100 guides, smoke management, CFRs…

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        3. Uh, there are so many rules. Where do you get your data? Burn plan, NEPA, Forest FAM guides, Forest Plan, Coop agreements, Mob Guide, Red Book, 5100 policy guidelines, Code of Federal Regulations, ESA, smoke management, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act…

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          1. Yeah…and when will all those lovely policies align? 2525?

            If man is still alive

            The 1970s want their song lyrics back……

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        4. Hi Andy,
          There are in fact a lot of rules in regards to firefighting and prescribed burn implementation. The whole point of a burn plan is to write and follow rules. RH is only one aspect of fire behavior, so just because the RH is low doesn’t mean that it is out of prescription or that it should not be done. Also, RH is relative to the region, area and fuel type one is burning in. For instance, Florida fuel types can be burned in RHs around 40%. In other areas such as the Rocky Mountains trying to burn with an RH that high would be difficult to get the desired fire effects.

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  35. I have a question…I’m not being sarcastic here or snarky…I’m being serious! Why do some people get arrested and others get a promotion?

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    1. It’s the way the broken federal government functions. The old saying that “Crap floats to the top” applies to these wildland fire management organizations as well. If you burn down a city with a misguided prescribe burn, don’t worry, you’ll get a big promotion up the chain. Ask Sequoia Superintendent Clay Jordan, or USFS employee Debbie Cress about how their actions in approving prescribe burns that became the worst wildfires in Tennessee, and New Mexico state history got them moved to better positions. It’s the way the feds work. It’s a broken system.

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      1. Wow! It’s like you’re reading my mind! 🙂 I just don’t understand why this guy goes to jail and others have been promoted…Why management supports some people and fires others? It’s so confusing!

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  36. The arrest by the Sheriff to de escalate an incident with armed adjacent land owners makes sense. Good topic for more research.

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  37. G Wilson, where do you purchase what must be an industrial quantity of tinfoil for that hat of yours?

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    1. I just presented two cases where prescribed fires got out of control and killed people, and destroyed billions of dollars in private property. It’s the folks in the government that work for these organizations that refuse responsibility. Even in this thread, it’s a bunch of whining about how if their “RX’s” get out of control they could now be held responsible. GOOD! About time. They should be treated for what they are – ARSONISTS!

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      1. Govt Lackey,
        You sound triggered, bitter, hyperbolic and exceedingly ill informed. Which Type 3 crew did you gain all your experience on? Are you even an RXB4?

        Everyone on this thread is a worker bee, none of us call the shots and we’re certainly not political sycophants. We also do not stroke our “leadership”. Take it up with them, they all work at the Washington Office. .

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        1. This burn boss should be charged for arson. Hopefully, he spends at least 10 years in prison. Let him be an example, then maybe the rest of you will finally take your jobs a little more seriously when you go happy on a firing operation.

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          1. Thanks for the excellent new firefighting tactic of just being serious!

            Come on fellow wildland fire fighters, let’s take our job serious so there will never be a fire that breaks containment or an rx burn that gets out ever again! If we all just put on our serious faces, we can give mother nature the what for!!

            I don’t come to where you work and throw rocks at you while you are mowing do I? Maybe if you took your job just a little more seriously then the dandelions wouldn’t be taking over that lawn, now would they?

            Keep on coming up with those sound tactical ideas. I’m so proud of you and I bet your mother is too.

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            1. Good Idea,

              You sound like an incompetent government employee. YOU SHOULD STRIVE to make sure none of those things happen. But of course, you just are nothing more than a joker.

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              1. Thank you for that sound advice. I will start striving to control the weather, fuel conditions, and terrain while doing my job if you start striving to get informed about what you are bloviating on and on about.

                I’d use the old adage that somewhere a village is missing its idiot, but I strongly doubt that they actually are missing you.

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            2. Ha ha ha. Guaranteed you’re on government welfare or subsidies of some sort. These comments are always from people who hate the government…..until the free money shows up. USFS is 99.84% success. Literally the number. Sounds like most are pretty damn good at what they do.

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      2. Go color with your crayon in the corner, Not a government lackey. Try and stay inside the lines because we all know that makes your parents happy.

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  38. Need to remember where this took place. The folks in that County have been at war with Federal Land Management agencies for decades!

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  39. Normally the federal government steps in and becomes the defendant provided the employee was acting within the scope of employment. That should happen here. We will see. The repercussions should be bouncing off the walls in the W O right now. Every burn boss in every agency should refuse an assignment until this is resolved.
    What is next? What happens when if you loose a burn out on a wildfire? Or if there is a piece of private ground between the fire and the burn out line?

    This is a major policy issue. Top leadership needs to step up and address it without delay. Don’t think that will happen.

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    1. Even brain surgeons are held accountable for their”mistakes”. And they have way more training. Why not government employees or past presidents?

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    2. Only in a civil case, A1. This poor guy is facing a life altering sequence of events that the FS and Solicitor Gen will be powerless to influence. I will not so much as participate in an Rx until this is resolved. Nope, not worth it.

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  40. Don’t implement an RX if its not required for your job or until you are compensated for the risk you incur. Also this is a real good illustration of how all the latest recommendations and actions post hermits peak do nothing to prevent losing a burn. What a royal mess.

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    1. An 18 acre slopover caught in an hour, or even the same operational period, is hardly losing a burn. This seems more a problem of zero trust between different people and agencies in the community. No coincidence this is story is out of the Malheur of sage brush rebellion and occupation fame. Anyway more details will come out and we will see what the deal is.

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        1. This is bigtime Bundy country; it is in fact the country where LaVoy Finicum was shot and an FBI agent was tried in relation to that shooting. You may have noted on that map, south of John Day and Canyon City, the area of Canyon Creek, and you may recall the 2015 fire there. Residents of Grant County are more than a little bit touchy about things like the federal government and fire.

          There’s a popular little saying around those parts noting that for many many decades, no one was ever convicted of murder in Grant County, Oregon. (And you’re supposed to catch it from the little wry grin that lots of people WERE murdered.)

          https://wildfiretoday.com/tag/canyon-creek-fire/

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      1. Nate,

        Unfortunately, you’re wrong. In the aftermath of the 90 day review and per the updated Prescribed Fire Implementation Guide, if you get so much as a duffer on private you have to declare it. if it’s on private…and you don’t have a Wyden Agreement, which I’m guessing they did not, it’s a wildfire. There is a notable difference between an “Escape” and a Wildfire Declaration”.

        In the aftermath of Hermits, Calf canyon, Simms and Cerro Pellado, it is hardly the time to take risks. It’s unfortunate and I sure as sh__ won’t be participating in any Rx projects as long as the public and our agency is so wadded up.

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        1. Thanks, my point was missed entirely. My point was no regulation or measures will stop slops or lost burns or loss of life and property in the future on Rx. The point is why would anyone assume that risk without any benefit. For the greater good? F__ that! It doesn’t matter if the guy or gal got arrested because of Bundy nation the fact is the individual was arrested.

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        2. Will you continue to drive your car to work? You can be sued at any time by someone getting in a wreck in your personal vehicle. Same if you own a house. Someone could sue you if they fall on your sidewalk. The point I’m making is legal liability is everywhere in our daily lives. A lot of firefighters just seem very concerned by it. Overly concerned I’d say. Meanwhile we breathe carcenginic gas and operate under burning snags on a daily basis, so our tolerance for those physical risks are quite high. I know folks don’t want to be financially ruined, but those physical risks can cause huge monetary damages as well. Criminal and civil liability also certainly isn’t unique to firefighters in their work everyone from doctors to bartenders are liable for how they perform their job. No free lunch out there, especially in the good old USA where we collectively love to sue each other for everything.

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      2. The 18 acres was not FS property, it was private property and outside the prescription, period ! To say is “ hardy losing a burn ,” is assine to say the least and is a typical thought of FS employee, oh well, stuff happens !

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        1. Jim, the prescription has to do with fuels, weather and fire behavior. If a burn slops or spots onto private land that does not make it out of prescription. FS employees and other federal employees in fire do not just say oh well stuff happens. We go to great lengths to keep these burns contained. We have sleepless nights leading up to the ignition day and many more after until we call the burn out. However, we do understand that burning is not without risk. There is always risk, no matter how well a burn plan is written, no matter how well we prep the units, how many resources we have on the day of the burn or the days after and no matter how many times we check the weather, take weather, or how good the spot weather and long range forecasts are, there is always risk.

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  41. I’ll bet if you dig deep enough you’ll find the relationship between the local governments and the Feds is in shambles. Eastern Oregon is fiercely independent of both Salem and DC, hell, there’s even a movement in that area to join up with the State of Idaho. I’m not sure it’s ever going to change. About the only think you can do is get the two sides to talk to each other like adults.

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  42. FC, that is a total misrepresentation of the events surrounding the North Complex blowup. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to at least make an attempt to be truthful. Spewing political talking points doesn’t help find a solution.

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  43. There is no way in hell if I were working for the USFS, or any other federal agency that I’d take that assignment or any other assignment with even remotest possibility that something could go wrong. Hate to say it but this guy is probably toast.

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    1. Agreed Mac. I am definitely deleting that qualification of my red card. I just do not get paid enough to deal with it anymore. This is where we are at, yeh.

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  44. This is without a doubt one of the worst examples of political prosecution I’ve seen! The Oregon department of Forestry had reduced the fire danger rating to moderate several weeks ago. There MAY be a civil issue but there is no CRIMINAL intent or neglect when Mother Nature creates a unforeseen circumstance.

    If the Forest Supervisor fails to support his people he needs to a non manager isolated desk position in the Regional Office!
    The results of this could result in killing the prescribed burn program.

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    1. How dare you come at this situation with logic…

      This is pure local politics, it has nothing to do with the “law” or damage to private property. Grant County is known for its population’s proclivity to blow things out of proportion, and even with this new Sheriff, it continues to show its willingness to feed into that proclivity. His statement “Determining the rest, honestly, Bill, is getting to the bottom of why they were even burning to begin with and why they chose to burn at that time,” shows that he rushed to make an arrest before gathering all the facts and evidence. Kinda hard to prove recklessness if you not know why they were burning to begin with, or why they chose to do a burn at that time.

      So thanks Bill for getting him to give you that quote. Make sure to pass it along to the RBX for his civil suit against Grant County. As to the criminal charges, they will be dismissed, if not outright, they will be dismissed when moved to US District Court. Stinks for the RBX to have to go though this process, but its kinda where we are at this day in age.

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      1. Why dont you state that the government should be free to do whatever it chooses. If it burns down a few private properties and disrupts lives in one of their miscalculated prescribe burns, ohh well. It’s for the greater good. No need to question the governments action or role in the event. It’s just easier to brush it all under a rug, and leave fire management run willy nilly without any critical eyes ever placed on them.

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        1. Why don’t you grow up, and come live in the real world…. No one is saying there wont be accountability. File a tort claim, and move on you petulant child.

          For those of us who live in the real world, there was no recklessness here. RX is not a science, but an art, and it will get away sometimes. We do learn from our mistakes, and will continue to do so. Actions such as those by this Sheriff just toss more fuel on the fire. Who will be the first one crying when the next lighting start burns in private and FS refuses mutual aid?

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          1. How was there “gross negligence”
            An attorney you are not
            Do you have in your possession the burn plan?
            Are you even aware of what gross negligence is?

            I’ll go out on a limb and say NO to both
            I’ll also go out on a limb and state that you have no clue about a prescribed burn, or fire in general…and watching “Fire County” on CBS doesn’t count.

            Gross negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both. It is conduct that is extreme when compared with ordinary Negligence, which is a mere failure to exercise reasonable care. Ordinary negligence and gross negligence differ in degree of inattention, while both differ from willful and wanton conduct, which is conduct that is reasonably considered to cause injury. This distinction is important, since contributory negligence—a lack of care by the plaintiff that combines with the defendant’s conduct to cause the plaintiff’s injury and completely bar his or her action—is not a defense to willful and wanton conduct but is a defense to gross negligence. In addition, a finding of willful and wanton misconduct usually supports a recovery of Punitive Damages, whereas gross negligence does not.

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            1. Burn bosses better get liability insurance if they decide to keep that qual. Definately not worth the risk or the pay if this is how it goes when things go south on a burn.

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          2. Sometimes? Since 2012…the “get away sometimes” art of RX burn indicates nobody is paying attention to the isobars. RX burns less than 20 % RH and winds in excess of 15 mph and the ineptitude shown in NM this spring shows some real issues.

            Yeah 71+ comments shows that RX burn types ought be carrying $2M in PLI and LMAs ought be payin for it

            Then I woke up….

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  45. Been threatened with arrest as a burn boss but never actually charged. Will be interesting to see how it plays out in court.

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      1. The Hammonds committed arson, not once but twice. The second time nearly entrapping several BLM firefighters. They were fairly arrested, fairly tried and fairly sentenced

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      2. The Hammonds underlit a bunch of firefighters fighting a fire. The Hammonds tried to maliciously kill people. You are a fool.

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        1. Hammond’s got off scott free, was totally wrong. He/they should’ve served time. And here in Idaho, Ammond is unbelievably running for Gov.

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  46. Unintended consequence of this arrest is that the Forrest Service will lose all its Burn Bosses (or whatever you call someone who starts a prescribed fire). If any action is taken at all, shouldn’t this be a civilian law suit launched against the Forrest Service by whatever rancher had his land burned? Arresting someone for criminal action makes no sense to me. Guess that’s why I’m not an attorney.

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  47. I’m hearing there were armed landowners and the sheriff arrested the burn boss to de-escalate.

    Either way, there needs to be new legislation in place protecting employees from legal liability. Otherwise I can’t imagine the prescribed fire program can continue as is. Wild situation.

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    1. Arresting the burn boss instead of the civilians threatening people with guns? Who was breaking the law here?

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      1. gross negligence prescribed fire map..
        OR is simple negligence…
        It will change as more community’s and families die..

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      2. Can’t say that the conditions were “questionable”
        You weren’t there
        You aren’t in possession of the burn plan

        Move on

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        1. This is the type of irresponsible attitude that the US Forest Service always takes. Even last Spring in the Southwest when the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history was caused by a criminally negligent burn boss who started a prescribed fire when meteorologist explained the forest service failed to accurately access wildfire risk on that day. And as usual the Forest Service blamed someone else, that time it was climate change. Total reckless incompetence by every measure that led to hundreds of homes lost, $1/4 billion in firefighting costs and 400,000 acres destroyed. And all the meteorologists who studied the weather leading up to that day all unanimously placed the blame on the burn boss failing to access accurate weather reports: https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2022/06/an-unnecessary-tragedy-new-mexico.html

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      3. The fire spotted onto private. It was an FS burn on FS ground that threw a spot. 20 acres picked up in a couple hours with the units on scene. I suspect you won’t read this since you seem to struggle with reading in general but trying to keep others from growing dumber by reading your nonsense.

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      4. I’m glad to see this happening. All agencies should take note. USFS is the worst as far escapes go. Believe me, I’ve been extinguising fire above them as they are setting fire beliw us and driving away from it.
        We should all be held responsible. Pay attention to predicted weather forecasts, consider terrain and access issues, either break the fire into smaller chunks or assign more people.

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        1. This is very doubtful and the USFS is probably the best at prescribed burn with a 99.84% success rate. Those are literally the numbers. Almost 100%.

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        2. Yeah…since the USFS has way the most acreage in trees, they would have the most escaped burns.

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    2. I would love to see the full transcripts of your convo since he addresses you by name, Bill.

      You allow one of the most toxic comment sections on the internet, that you quote “moderate”. Which is ironic since you blocked me on Twitter for…agreeing with you.

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  48. Welp, I wonder how many burn bosses are going to let that qual disappear from their red card after hearing this.

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  49. Unbelievable!!!!! Yeh, as if we need to worry about being f______ arrested now too! Hey Craig Trulock and Blue Mountain District Ranger Sally Christenson, what’s up with you bullsh__ shared risk crap now??????

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    1. I heard Trulock went to the jail and paid the bail. Never met the guy, but seems like a nice thing to do. The shared risk has always been a lie that management tells themselves, they can’t actually believe it.

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        1. Sherriff Todd McKinley is very active in wildfire as a member of an RFD. Makes you wonder why he went to such drastic actions on a “brother” of fire even though he’s well aware of the circumstances of an escaped RX and how the FS operates and that the Burn Boss is just a cog in the machine. Hell the RXB2 probably didn’t even put torch to the ground so by the letter of the law is he even guilty of reckless burning? If its because he “directed it” why isnt Todd arresting the Ranger or Forest Sup instead?

          So whats the real reason Todd is doing this? Political stunt…meh maybe but he …but could there be financial gain somewhere for him? In the ranchers pockets? Ruin the partnerships with the feds so that maybe some mutual aid agreements go away allowing more opportunities for the RFD and contractors in the area? Or ODF so more OT for his kid? This smells…and suspiciously it smells like more money for ol Todd somehow.

          Is he as crooked as the previous Sherriff?

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      1. “According to Snodgrass, he’d called for law enforcement to help control aggressive traffic and to deal with harassment his crews had been receiving while implementing a prescribed burn on the Malheur National Forest in Bear Valley, about 7 miles north of Seneca.”

        https://www.bluemountaineagle.com/news/forest-service-employees-arrest-after-fire-crosses-onto-private-land-sparks-larger-debate/article_bd95fba2-518c-11ed-bae4-e397898be956.html

        If the burn boss was distracted by engaging with locals (aggressive traffic) and other persons not on the crew, and if they were harassing his crews — whether they were locals or the adjacent landowners or their employees or just passersby — and his disrupted focus on the job at hand can be shown to have been caused by them, they may have more to worry about than he does.

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