CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS: 7th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference

The 7th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference is scheduled for April 15–19, 2024 and will be held  simultaneously in Boise, Canberra, and Tralee, Ireland. Conference organizers are now calling for presentations, and each location is inviting presentation proposals.

The IAWF Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference provides a forum at which fire management experience and lessons learned are documented, and current work is showcased. Emerging research, innovation, and management techniques are shared, to develop integrated solutions to wildfire challenges.


This conference on three continents will showcase several countries’ development and integration of fire management policies and frameworks at national, regional, and local levels to address fire risks and build resilience.  The conference brings together policy makers, scientists, fire managers, and indigenous land stewards for a shared purpose and a different future living with fire.

The deadline to submit proposals for presentations is October 15. 

The International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) professional association committed to a non-partisan approach for uniting the global wildland fire community. We were formed in 1990 as a global professional membership association. For 30 years IAWF has grown from a fledgling organization to the foremost global wildfire-focused association spanning 26+ countries. The IAWF was built on the belief that an understanding of this dynamic natural force is vital for natural resource management, for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of firefighters and the public, and for harmonious interactions between people and their environment. IAWF is dedicated to communicating with the entire wildland fire community and providing a global link for people with shared interest in wildland fire and associated topics of this multifaceted community. To accomplish these goals, we create networks across sectors, fields, and disciplines to connect the wildfire community through multiple platforms including conferences, our website, the International Journal of Wildland Fire, Wildfire Magazine, and social media outlets.

Poor Timing for Government Shutdown and Federal Firefighters

Guest Post
By Billy Durst

Another government shutdown looms. No one knows whether it will happen, or how long it might last if it does happen. Based on the current conflicts in Congress, particularly between House Republicans and their speaker Kevin McCarthy, many people’s gut instinct tells them that it will. The last government shutdown, in 2019, was 35 days (the longest in U.S. history), and if that is any indication of how long this might last, government employees could be facing another record-breaking furlough.

The timing couldn’t be worse for one particular group of federal employees — federal wildland firefighters, who are anxiously hoping that Congress will pass legislation that would permanently raise firefighter pay. The proposed legislation is not all that they’d hoped for, and not all that they need to make their pay commensurate with their work, but it is clear that it is all they are going to get — if they get it.

A potential worst-case scenario exists for two reasons. Reason one: temporary cash bonus payments put in place by the Biden administration, amounting to a 50 percent raise, have been in place for over a year. These temporary “retention allowances” targeting the federal wildland workforce’s retention issues, amid historically devastating fire years, are set to expire in October.

Numbers Fire Nevada wildfire Carson City Minden
Numbers Fire, July 6, 2020. Photo by Tallac Hotshots.

Reason two: if the government shutdown occurs as the existing government funding regime expires, also come October, federal wildland firefighters will be forced to continue working throughout the furlough, knowing that when the shutdown itself eventually expires, they will be returning to a 50 percent pay cut.

The best-case scenario is that the government does not shut down, that Congress passes and Biden signs the legislation in a timely manner, and that federal wildland firefighters receive the 30 percent permanent pay increase proposed by the pending legislation. No matter what happens come October, these federal firefighters will receive at least a 20 percent reduction in pay. This inevitable pay reduction of 20-50 percent will occur despite the fact that firefighters’ work is more necessary than ever before, while it is common knowledge among firefighters that the majority of, for example, California federal firefighters could earn higher hourly wages working as fast-food employees.

Redding Hotshots Trail Mountain Fire
The Redding Hotshots conduct a safety briefing before beginning their assignment on the Trail Mountain Fire. U.S. Forest Service photo.

Morale among the workforce is low. Cynicism abounds regarding the intentions of agency leaders to be sensitive to our needs, of their competency to advocate on our behalf, and of Congress to perform their responsibilities required not only to keep the government functioning, but also to pass the legislation needed to partially counteract the federal firefighter retention crisis. These federal employees feel righteous indignation in the face of attacks on the value of their labor, and the words-not-action stance of their leaders.

To make a distressing situation darkly comedic, a recent “system error” saw federal firefighters across the country receive notices through their government personnel system that they were to receive pay raises of nearly 100 percent. Had the agencies somehow decided to work around Congress and come through with the necessary pay increases just in the nick of time, before the temporary bonuses ran out? An agency email a few days later clarified that they had not, and a bureaucratic apology followed the inexplicable “system error.” The ironic timing of this mistake was not lost on federal firefighters.

Whether or not these public servants will endure another record-breaking furlough in the face of record-breaking wildfires, or whether their permanent pay increase will be lost within the machinations of a Congressional “system error,” remains to be seen.

No excuse for neglecting firefighter pay

Grassroots Wildland Firefighters

This week Grassroots President Luke Mayfield sent a letter to USDA leadership and key Congressional members concerning the lack of movement on the Wildland Firefighter Pay Protection Act — here’s an excerpt from the letter.

“The debate over the remaining funds from the Bipartisan lnfrastructure Law is a distraction to conjure false narratives; one is administrative mismanagement and the other that the federal wildland workforce is not facing a fiscal cliff. Rather than action to address the crisis at hand, these arguments try to avoid accountability for the lack of leadership, which could bring thousands of wildland firefighters to the brink of a pay cliff.”

The federal wildland firefighter workforce can no longer be sacrificed without long-term and catastrophic consequences. Workforce and systemic reforms must become congressional and administrative priorities.

The purpose of the letter is to clearly outline and document our intent for agency leadership and Congressional decision-makers.

To read the entire letter for perspective on what’s going on in the Capitol, click [HERE]. Our organization wants to make sure stakeholders are not misguided by rumors or false narratives from named or unnamed sources.

Thank you,
Grassroots Wildland Firefighters
PO BOX 51253
Sparks, Nevada 89435

California insurance rules change

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said this week that insurance companies in the state will soon be allowed to factor in climate risks including wildfires in their insurance rates — if they increase their underwriting in at-risk areas to wean consumers off state-funded coverage.

Reuters reported that in the last year or two, seven of the state’s top 12 insurers have paused or restricted new business, including State Farm and Liberty Mutual, and the government’s Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan, intended as an insurer of last resort, has grown to a 3 percent share of California’s market.

Dixie Fire at Greenville, CA, 2021
Firefighters on the Dixie Fire at Greenville, CA, 2021. Jay Walter.

“We are at a major crossroads on insurance after multiple years of wildfires and storms intensified by the threat of climate change,” Lara said.

Unlike other states, according to an ABC News report, California does not allow insurance companies to consider current or future risks when setting the rate for an insurance policy. Companies can consider only what’s happened on a property in the past to set the price.

And insurers say that restriction makes it difficult to accurately price the risk.

On Thursday, Lara said California will write new rules to let insurers look to the future when setting their rates. “Modernizing our insurance market is not going to be easy or happen overnight,” he said. “We are in really unchartered territory and we must make difficult choices when the world is changing rapidly.”

The rule change is not all good news — it could mean higher rates for homeowners who have already seen dramatic increases. Eight insurance companies in California have requested increases of at least 20 percent this year, according to the California Department of Insurance.

Harvey Rosenfield, the author of a 1988 ballot proposition that regulates insurance rates, said Lara’s announcement “will dramatically increase homeowner and renter insurance bills by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.”

El comisionado de Seguros de California, Ricardo Lara, dijo esta semana que a las compañías de seguros del estado pronto se les permitirá tener en cuenta los riesgos climáticos, incluidos los incendios forestales, en sus tarifas de seguro, si aumentan su suscripción en áreas de riesgo para que los consumidores dejen de recibir cobertura financiada por el estado.

Reuters informó que en el último año o dos, siete de las 12 principales aseguradoras del estado han detenido o restringido nuevos negocios, incluyendo State Farm y Liberty Mutual, y el Plan de Acceso Justo a los Requisitos de Seguro (FAIR, por sus siglas en inglés) del gobierno, pensado como una aseguradora del último año. resort, ha crecido hasta alcanzar una cuota del 3 por ciento del mercado de California.

Grants available in Colorado for forest restoration and wildfire risk reduction

Colorado State Forest Service
Colorado State Forest Service

As outlined in the Steamboat Pilot, there are two main types of qualifying projects for funding:

    1. Fuels and Forest Health Projects — must reduce risk of damage to property, infrastructure, water supplies, or other high-value assets from wildfire, or limit the likelihood of wildfires spreading into populated areas. Projects must promote forest health through sciene-based forestry practices that restore ecosystem functions, structures, and species composition.
    2. Capacity Building Projects — must increase community capacity by providing the community with resources and staffing necessary for forest restoration and wildfire risk mitigation projects.

The following individuals, organizations, or entities may apply:

    • Local community groups such as homeowner, neighborhood, or property associations located within or close to the wildland/urban interface.
    • Local government entities including counties, municipalities, fire protection districts, and other special districts in or near the interface.
    • Public or private utilities, including water providers, with infrastructure or land ownership in areas with high risk of catastrophic wildfires.
    • Nonprofit groups that promote hazardous fuels reduction projects or that engage in firefighting or fire management.

Applicants must demonstrate an ability to match 50 percent of the total project cost. Matching contributions can be cash, in-kind, or a combination of both, and may be in the form of private, local government, state or federal support for the project.

Contact your local field office for details. More information is available at or (970)879-0475. Applications are due in mid-October and awards will be announced in April.

Oregon governor meets with USFS and utilities

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek on Monday joined U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore, state agency leaders, and members of the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, including representatives from PGE, Pacific Power, Avista, and rural electric cooperatives for a roundtable discussion about national strategies that can support local efforts to reduce the catastrophic risk of wildfire.

“Wildfire threatens our natural areas, our homes, and even our lives,” Kotek said. “Today, we committed to expanding our coordination across large and small utilities and federal partners to help ensure that Oregon meets the highest possible standard for wildfire prevention and response.”

Oregon 2020 fires
2020 fires — Oregon State Fire Marshal photo.

Pacific Power serves much of Oregon and has suffered in court over its powerlines, fire ignitions, and legal liability for homes and property destroyed by wildifres its lines started. Simon Gutierrez with Pacific Power said the company created a “robust wildfire mitigation plan” that’s been in place since 2019, “designed to minimize the risk of our equipment potentially igniting a wildfire.”

But in the fall of 2020, with east winds picking up toward the end of a long, hot and dry summer, Mill City Fire Chief Leland Ohrt was dispatched to a home not far from his own, where a tree branch had fallen on a powerline and started a small brush fire. Ohrt, a VFD chief in a small town in western Oregon’s Cascades, hosed down the fire and then drove over to Schroeder Road, where another tree branch had fallen over another powerline and was still arcing sparks into the dry fuels below. Ohrt couldn’t stop the sparking, so he hosed the utility lines with water until they exploded and de-energized themselves.

Those two incidents initiated a frenzied 48 hours for Ohrt, acccording to an OPB report, and he was later recognized for his efforts to save Mill City as the fires destroyed thousands of homes down the Santiam Canyon and across other parts of western Oregon. Ohrt watched Pacific Power’s utility lines start those fires, but he took the stand in court in May of 2023 to defend the company in a class-action trial against Pacific Power.

Back in 2019, Governor Kate Brown recommended that utilities prepare risk-based wildfire procedures in a report on wildfire response. She then issued an executive order that  directed the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to evaluate utility protection plans, leading to Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) requirements.

Pacific Power complied, setting up a formal plan for PSPS — a temporary measure that de-energizes lines to keep people and communities safe. But as Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reported, in an historic legal decision, a Multnomah County Circuit Court jury found Pacific Power (PacifiCorp) liable for around $90 million to western Oregon residents who lost homes and property after the company failed to shut down power despite multiple warnings about severe windstorms over the 2020 Labor Day holiday.

Pacific Power court exhibit
One of the exhibits at trial of the class-action suit against Pacific Power (PacifiCorp)

KTVZ News reported that the USFS met this week with Governor Kotek and utility companies to discuss mitigation since the passage of Senate Bill 762. Public safety power shut-offs are now a routine practice in Oregon, fire mitigation plans are annually submitted to the Oregon PUC for approval, and pre-fire season meetings with utilities and first responders occur annually.

A report earlier this month by the Source Weekly examined the issue of whether utility companies should shut off power to their lines during periods of high fire risk. In the wake of devastating wildfires ignited by powerlines — particularly in Oregon during the Labor Day 2020 fires and more recently in Hawai’i — utility companies must prioritize and clarify their planning for power shutoffs.

The report by Source Weekly has additional details about companies’ plans for wildfire shutoffs.