The National Association of State Foresters is calling on Congress to introduce and pass legislation that will allow resource sharing among states and Canadian provinces for the express purpose of fighting wildfires.
“To better protect Americans from wildfire, our states need Congress to enact federal legislation to address liability concerns for Forest Fire Compact resource exchanges,” Alaska State Forester Chris Maisch told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday. “Current federal and state legislation doesn’t provide adequate liability protections to compacts so that they can freely exchange emergency response personnel and resources like firefighting aircraft. In effect, some states are unable to mobilize critical resources across compact boundaries.”
Across North America, there are eight operating Forest Fire Compacts. Each compact includes several state members, and a few even include Canadian provinces. Within each compact, wildfire fighting resources and personnel can be deployed quickly and efficiently from state-to-state to suppress wildfires. But under current legislation, compact-to-compact sharing of resources is limited.
For example, the Southern Forest Fire Compacts are reluctant to accept resources from the Northeast and Northwest Forest Fire Compacts because the latter compacts don’t have inter-compact liability protection language in their statutes. The Northwest Compact does not accept or export any resources on a compact-to-compact basis for the same reason. This lack of compact-to-compact liability protection means that half of states (and several Canadian provinces) aren’t able to share wildfire fighting resources, even in times of extreme emergency.
“The first Forest Fire Compact was established in 1949 as a way for states to share firefighting resources crucial to managing wildfires efficiently,” said Jay Farrell, NASF executive director. “NASF and the Alliance for Forest Fire Compacts are urging Congress to give these compacts a fix, allowing more life-saving resources to be deployed for wildfire response.”
If the governor of New Mexico signs SB 138, a bill approved February 17 by the legislature on a vote of 62 to 1, the state will become the seventh member of the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact, making it easier to share firefighting resources with Colorado, Wyoming, Saskatchewan, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.
A fire official knowledgeable about the Compact said two other states have expressed an interest in becoming members, Utah and Kansas.
There are at least six other fire compacts: Great Lakes, Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, Big River, Northwest, and Southeastern.
The state of Idaho has filed a lawsuit to recover the costs they incurred while suppressing the 2012 Steep Corner Fire near Orofino, Idaho. The suit claims that a timber company and its contractor did not meet U.S. Forest Service standards. It names Potlatch Land and Lumber, Potlatch Forest Holdings, Clearwater Paper Corp., Potlatch Corp., and DABCO Inc., a Kamiah-based logging contractor.
If the governor of Nebraska signs a bill approved by the legislature, the state will become a member of the Great Plains Interstate Compact, making it easier to share firefighting resources with Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas.
UPDATE, April 18, 2014. Gov. Dave Heineman announced that he signed the bill.
The next generation of 911 could include live video and photographs which could be sent to first responders.
On May 1, 2010, a terrorist attack in New York City’s Times Square was thwarted when street vendors noticed smoke coming from a vehicle in which a homemade bomb had failed to explode. Imagine if those street vendors could have used their cellphones to send pictures or video of the vehicle and its license plate to a 911 call center. What if the 911 center could then push that data to first responders and police to get the location from GIS and buildings visual in the photos?
“They could really capture the dynamics of the event,” said Brian Fontes, executive director of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). “That is what I call an information-rich 911 call, which will be supported in a next-generation 911 system…
Wildfire activity in British Columbia
Fire officials are keeping a close eye on wildfires in the interior. There have been twice the average number of fires so far this year in the Kamloops Fire centre. Monday, five homes were put on evacuation alert in Bridge River near Lillooet. Nearly two dozen firefighters were sent to the area. Two fires are also being fought in the Okanagan. Kayla Pepper is an information officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre. She says it is dry and there has been a fair amount of wind throughout the Interior and Okanagan. She says there have already been 34 wildfires in the region. Pepper says so far, it’s too early to predict how active wildfires will be this year.
National Parks with web pages devoted to wildland fire
Even though you may not have heard of them because of their relatively low profiles, wildland fire compacts for state fire organizations got their start in the United States 64 years ago in 1949 when Congress passed legislation establishing the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission. Seven states joined in 1949 and 1950 — Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York. The Canadian provinces of Québec and New Brunswick became members in 1969 and 1970, making it the first international compact. International treaties and other state and federal legislation enabled additional compacts to be formed so that today most of the Canadian provinces and all states in the U.S. are members except for six states: Nebraska, Utah, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Their purpose is to provide the means for its member states and provinces to cope with fires that might be beyond the capabilities of a single member. They share firefighting resources through mutual aid, support the development of integrated forest fire plans, and coordinate training. Some of the compacts are funded through annual dues for each state and/or federal grants from the U.S. Forest Service State and Private Forestry. Others have no funding at all.
On October 29 and 30 the Alliance of Forest Fire Compacts held their annual meeting in Denver, hosted by the Great Plains Compact. In addition to representatives from many state and province fire organizations, there were also attendees from the U.S. Forest Service, National Interagency Coordination Center, National Association of State Foresters, All-Hazards Incident Management Teams Association, and Western Governors Association.
Jim Strain, the Assistant Chief of Operations for South Dakota State Wildland Fire was at the meeting and took excellent notes, which he graciously shared with us. The following information draws heavily from Mr. Strain’s report and includes some of the points we found the most interesting.
Dan Smith, representing the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) reported:
The NASF is dealing with ramifications of the Yarnell Fire report and the four areas identified for action that concern: (a) more instructions on how to utilize Very Large Air Tankers (VLATs); (b) interoperability of radio communications and GPS technology and tracking of ground based resources; (c) Interpersonal communications; and (d) guidance on what point is it necessary to separate Aerial Supervision Module (ASM) and lead plane roles to carry out responsibilities for each platform.
Mr. Smith also said the big update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) is the Incident Management Team Succession Project. It appears for the time being that 40 is the number of nationwide teams that would be qualified at the Type 1 or “complex” level. Folks in the field need to know that we are heading to a future incident management world of Initial Attack, Extended Attack (Type 3) and Complex (Type 1). With that in mind, we need to develop alternative pathways or “speed to competency” to build up this capacity at the Type 3 level.
National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) update. Continue to expect future shortages of Type 1 crews and air tankers at the national level when the western fire season is in full swing. Still dealing with some hand crew support issues during times of nationwide mobilization (i.e. Type 2 Initial Attack crews not self- sufficient as per Mobilization Guide direction).
National Interagency Coordination Center update: Susie Stingley-Russell, Center Manager, NICC:
Very concerned about the shortage of Type 2 crews nationwide and the future capacity of Type 2 crews to fill resource orders.
Very Large Air Tankers, (VLATs) will be on a federal contract again next year that will pay daily availability, so the ordering agency only has to pay for flight time and retardant.
Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC): Serge Poulin:
The 2013 fire season in Canada as of 9/11/13 saw 5897 fires that burned 3,798,206 ha. There seems to be a trend in Canada of a lower number of ignitions but more ha burned. We are also seeing more of our personnel mobilizations lasting the full 14 days.
They are developing an alternative to BEHAVE called REDAPP (http://redapp.org). Furthermore, CIFFC is reviewing the FI210, S490 course and ICSCanada project. Work is going forward on several on-line courses (S290, s291, S292 and S204) with on-line exams. CIFFC this year moved all personnel on CAN/US exchanges on a passport basis only and will continue in that manner in the future.
All-Hazards Incident Management Teams Association (AHIMTA), Chief Michael Chapman
AHIMTA is still working with the National Integration Center to find core competencies for incident management tasks with endorsements for specific all hazard specialties. It was noted that Colorado Public Safety worked on all-Hazards task books with the exception of the operations section.
Discussion about international border crossings:
Trent Marty, Director, Bureau of Forest Protection for Wisconsin DNR, shared information on the “quick strike” form. Information will be added to the website on Border Crossing Information contacts and aircraft information. Reminders: Try not to cross on a holiday weekend and get crew manifest to border crossing point 12 to 24 hours prior to arriving at that point.