CAL FIRE adopts mascot

They hope Captain Cal will help them connect with children

Captain Cal
Captain Cal. Screenshot from CBS Sacramento video.

Fire safety mascots have been around at least since since the 1950s, such as Smokey Bear for wildfires and Sparky the Fire Dog for structure fires. Forestín, the official mascot of the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) of Chile, was created in 1976.

Now the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has adopted its own mascot. Captain Cal, based on a mountain lion, was introduced to the public earlier this week at the state capitol in Sacramento.

CAL FIRE hopes that the mountain lion character will help them connect with young people about fire safety, wildfires, and other topics.

“We want to make sure we get a character out there that identifies all safety hazards,” CAL FIRE information officer Richard Cordova said, “not only just wildland, but pool safety, earthquake safety, whatever message we want to push we will use Captain Cal to do that.”

Disney animators helped design Captain Cal, the mountain lion that walks erect on two legs. Of course Smokey does also.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

The new Director of CAL FIRE addressed climate change — 9 years ago

CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter
CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter taking the oath of office. CAL FIRE photo.

The new Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had strong feelings about climate change before that was cool. (And some people still deny climate change, the moon landings, and they think the Earth is flat.)

Thom Porter was appointed Director of CAL FIRE by Governor Gavin Newsom on January 8, replacing Ken Pimlott who retired December 15, 2018.

In 2009, ten years after he began working for CAL FIRE, Mr. Porter was featured in a 90-second video produced by Greenpeace USA in which he talked about how climate change was affecting wildland fire.

Below is a partial transcript from the video:

As a firefighter I’m a student of the weather, and I’ve noticed that there’s a change that’s occurred in the last several years.

CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter
Thom Porter as he appeared in a 2009 video.

These patterns are not what I have grown up with. They are also not what I have seen in the historical record. We’re starting to see more monsoonal type of weather that’s causing more dry lightning which ignites fires — sometimes thousands of fires in a 24-hour period. We’re stretched for resources when that happens. We don’t have enough fire engines and aircraft to take care of all those fires.

California has a very diverse economy. A lot of it depends on water. If the climate changes and we don’t have the water we need to support that business or the people who live here, we could see all of society start to have to move out of certain areas. California could dry up and blow away.


Before his appointment by the Governor, Chief Porter had served as Chief of Strategic Planning in CAL FIRE’s Sacramento Headquarters since January 1, 2018.

Prior to his CAL FIRE career, Chief Porter worked as a forester in the timber industry in Washington, Oregon and California, developing timber harvesting plans, planning and directing prescribed burns, and managing company safety programs.

He signed on with CAL FIRE in 1999 as a Forester I in the Forestry Assistance Program at the Southern Operations Center. He eventually served as the Southern Region Chief, Assistant Region Chief, and San Diego Unit Chief.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in forest management from the University of California Berkeley and is a Registered Professional Forester.

CAL FIRE Chief calls President Trump’s wildfire claims ‘uninformed’

L FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott
CAL FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott. File photo.

In an interview Friday with KPIX, Ken Pimlott Chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection addressed the criticism lobbed Wednesday at California by President Trump during a cabinet meeting. The President said in part:

California’s a mess. We’re giving billions and billions of dollars for forest fires in California. There’s no reason for those fires to be like they are…

So I think California oughta get their act together and clean up their forests and manage their forests because it’s disgraceful.

What’s happening should never happen. I go all over the country. When I meet with governors the first thing they say is there’s no reason for forest fires like that in California.

CAL FIRE to procure mobile data systems with location tracking capability

The system will enhance situational awareness for 1,200 firefighting resources.

Above: an example of a mobile data terminal made by Radio Mobile.

(Originally published at 10:50 a.m. MT February 15, 2018)

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has signed a contract to provide technology in 1,200 state-owned vehicles that will facilitate mission critical data communications over a variety of networks (broadband, narrowband and satellite).

Under the agreement, RadioMobile will provide a centralized location tracking application within a mobile data terminal solution. The system receives incident information, provides mapping, and enables vehicle operators to communicate via a touchscreen application interfacing with their computer aided dispatching (CAD) system. The company will also provide the equipment, services, and support needed to implement a statewide VHF mobile data system and integrate network switching between broadband/cellular, VHF and satellite for CAL FIRE mobile resources.

We have been an advocate for the Holy Grail of Wildland Firefighting, which is knowing the real time location of firefighters and the fire. This system will implement a portion of that, tracking the location of firefighting vehicles and other mobile equipment (but probably can’t track dismounted personnel). It will also have the capability of displaying a map, and when data is available it could show the location of the fire. For example, it could show a sketched-out hand drawn map of the fire, or live video from an air attack ship or drone orbiting 10,000 feet over the fire. And, importantly, it could indicate the location of all firefighting resources that have location tracking enabled.

When these functions are implemented, it will enhance the situational awareness of firefighters. Congratulations to CAL FIRE for taking a step to make their personnel just a little bit safer.

Radio Mobile
This is a screen shot from a Radio Mobile “about us” video. Notice anything interesting?

CAL FIRE’s academy accused of improper testing procedures

CAL FIREMore allegations of improper activities have emerged about the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s firefighter academy in Ione.

They are still dealing with repercussions from earlier scandals. Within the last year one of the instructors was convicted of the murder of his mistress, and 16 either resigned, were fired, or were disciplined. All of the disciplined employees were replaced at the academy following charges that included drinking on duty, using state property to meet with prostitutes, and sexual harassment. In March Ken Pimlott, Director of CAL FIRE, felt the need to deal publicly with the scandal when he addressed the issue in a Legislature budget hearing.

Now according to the Sacramento Bee there are new allegations of questionable practices related to administering tests at the school. Below is an excerpt from the article:

For more than an hour in August 2014, Shannon Browne sat with investigators at CHP’s Valley Division office in Sacramento, at first hesitant, then growing more confident as she laid out her concerns. Instructors were manipulating scores on tests at Cal Fire’s firefighting academy in Ione, she told the officers.

[…]

“Instead of saying, ‘Hey, we’re not teaching this correctly,’ and keeping (the questions) … they were just passing students,” Browne said during a 70-minute interview recorded by the investigators. “They were going to pass everyone … and I know that this is a safety issue. This is someone’s safety and life, and other people are depending on them. … They (the cadets) should not be passed if they don’t know the material. I mean, these are critical basic skills.”

Lawsuit alleges CAL FIRE misrepresented death benefits to families of deceased pilots

This article first appeared at Fire Aviation.

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Families of firefighting pilots killed in the line of duty in California have filed a lawsuit charging that officials in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) intentionally misinformed them of their entitlement to death benefits.

According to the Sacramento Bee,

They “intentionally misrepresented to the survivors that the only available death benefit they might apply for was those available from” the federal government, the claim states. “Cal Fire executives made these representations knowing them to be false, and at the time they were well aware of the existence of benefits required to be paid under (state law).”

The lawsuit lists 14 pilots that were killed while fighting fires in California. Two of those were employees of DynCorp which has a contract to provide pilots and maintenance for the state’s S-2 air tankers. The other 12 worked for air tanker companies under contract to the U.S. Forest Service…

Read the rest at Fire Aviation.