11 IMTeams and 41 crews assisting in hurricane recovery

Hurricane Sandy IMT locations, November 5, 2012

The Eastern Area Coordination Center reports that 1,125 people are assigned to incidents in the Eastern Geographic Area, however some of those may be working on incidents unrelated to Hurricane Sandy. But this number does include 11 incident management teams and 41 crews of firefighters that are assigned to hurricane recovery.

Three NIMO Incident Management Teams are assigned:Resources assigned in Eastern Area, November 6, 2012

  • Quesinberry: Is assigned to provide support to Nassau County, NY.
  • Kleinman: Is supporting development and management of staging areas in New York City.
  • Hahnenberg: Is assigned to the Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn, NY.

Two Type 1 Incident Management Teams are assigned:

  • Wilder: Is managing road clearing operations throughout West Virginia.
  • Opliger: Is managing a staging area at Fort Dix, NJ.

Six Type 2 Incident Management Teams are assigned:

  • Pisarek: Is managing a mobilization, and receiving and distribution centers in Farmingdale, NY.
  • Dueitt: Is assisting FEMA operations in the New York City area.
  • Kollmeyer: Is assigned to provide support to Nassau County, NY.
  • Graham: Is assigned to Charleston, WV.
  • West: Is assigned to Charleston, WV.
  • Fry: Is overseeing road clearing operations in New Jersey

Below is an interesting photo that the New York City Fire Department posted on their Facebook page showing most of the southern part of Manhattan blacked out due to the hurricane.

NYC partially blacked out

Incident Management Teams dispatched for hurricane recovery

Updated at 11:50 a.m. MT, October 29, 2012

Firefighters in the land management agencies have been dispatched to the east coast to be prepared to assist with recovery from the impacts of the mega-storm, Hurricane Sandy.

Incident Management Teams activated

Two short versions of conventional Type 2 IMTeams have been dispatched. Grant’s team from the Eastern Area is pre-positioned at Ft. Devan Mass., and Pisarek’s team from Minn. with 11 people is pre-positioned at Oneida County Airport near Albany, New York.

There is a report that two other teams have been ordered. We will update this article when we have more information.

In addition, two of the National Park Service’s internal Type 2 IMTeams have been activated and staged. The Eastern Region’s team IMT is in Hagerstown, Maryland, and the Midwest Region’s team is in Columbus, Ohio. The NPS has many parks and national monuments along the east coast and in the New York area that are being heavily affected by the storm. More details about the impacts on those facilities today can be found here. Their Morning Report, updated each week day, will have ongoing information.

Crews dispatched

Pre-positioned at Ft. Deven, MA:

  • MN-MFC Type 2 crew
  • MI-HMF/MI-UPC Type 2 crew

Pre-positioned at Oneida County Airport near Albany, NY:

  • MO-MOC Type 2 crew (arriving tonight)

Ordered for or en route to Republic Airport, Farmingdale, NY (Long Island):

  • Augusta IHC
  • Cherokee IHC module
  • 10-person VAF saw crew
  • 20-person crew (TBD)

Federal Emergency Management Agency response

FEMA’s Emergency Support Function (ESF) #4, Firefighting, is the responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service. The agency is the primary link between the interagency wildland fire community, Federal structure-fire-related agencies, and the Department of Homeland Security under the National Response Framework. During disasters and other major emergencies, the USFS coordinates and staffs ESF #4 to be the face of Federal firefighting support to FEMA and other responding agencies.

ESF #4 offices have opened in four locations: FEMA headquarters, FEMA Region I in Maynard, MA, FEMA Region II in Earle, NJ, and FEMA Region III in Philadelphia, PA.

The FEMA blog has more information about how the agency is dealing with the storm.

Information about the hurricane

Here are two Google Maps that provide detailed information:


New model for Incident Management Teams

Big Elk Fire, Wyoming, July, 2009
Big Elk Fire, Wyoming, July, 1999. Photo: Bill Gabbert

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) has released a new organizational model for Incident Management Teams (IMT), titled Evolving Incident Management: A Recommendation for the Future.

(Apparently they decided not to make a recommendation for the past.)

In light of smaller federal work forces, more state and local IMTs, and longer fire seasons, the NWCG recognized that the current workforce management and succession planning for wildfire response is not sustainable. The new plan, which refers to a “decrease in Federal capacity”, admits that one of the primary purposes of the new model is to help find a solution to the difficulty in filling positions on IMTs, in part due to the smaller work forces. This, in spite of the fact that the U.S. Forest Service routinely assures congressional panels and the public that the federal government has plenty of wildland fire suppression capability and the budgets proposed by the Administration for the land management agencies are sufficient for protecting the public lands.

Some of the recommended changes are very significant, such as combining the Type 1 and Type 2 IMTs into just one type of team, and reducing the total number of federally sponsored teams from 55 to 40.

The entire 51-page document can be found HERE. Below, in the bullets, are some of the highlights of the new system:

  • Number of Teams. The target number of federally sponsored IMTs is 40.
  • Typing of Teams. Merge all federally sponsored type 1 and type 2 teams into one type of IMT.
  • NIMO teams.There [would continue to] be four National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) teams supervised and managed by the USDA Forest Service.
  • Incident Complexity and Scalability. There are three response levels: Initial attack (type 4 and 5 incidents), extended attack (type 3 incidents managed by type 3 IMTs) and complex incidents managed by IMTs.
  • State teams. IMTs sponsored by states would provide surge capacity at elevated geographic area and national preparedness levels under the recommended model.
  • Team Management and Dispatching. Geographic area coordination centers would manage IMT rotations for their geographic area until the national preparedness level reaches 3. At preparedness level 3 and above the National Interagency Coordination Center coordinates the IMT rotation in consultation with the geographic area coordination centers.
  • Team Funding. Each IMT would receive an established amount of support funding provided by the agencies in their home geographic area. Teams are provided with administrative staff support to support ICs with management of their team rosters and other logistical needs.
  • Team Size and Configuration. IMTs are composed of 27 members and 14 trainees in the recommended organizational model. The IMTs are available in short team and long team configurations.
  • Area Command. Short-term recommendations (2012–2015) include (1) maintaining four area command teams, and (2) formalizing the current management of the four area command teams as a pool of interchangeable personnel sufficient to staff four teams. Long-term recommendations (2016 and beyond) include transitioning area command teams to strategic management teams. This would more accurately reflect the changing demands for an oversight group to provide strategic planning, risk management, command, control, coordination, information management, and preparedness support. This transition would also be the source for innovative processes, procedures, and technology to support incident objectives.
  • Performance and Accountability. All agency administrators in units with wildland fire programs would have a performance standard or element for fire management. Expectations for each agency’s level of participation should be developed based on their percent of wildland fire workload.
  • Incentives. Incentives for participation should be a part of the implementation plan for the recommended organizational model. Disincentives should be identified and reduced or eliminated.
  • Workforce Development. Develop a robust and coordinated succession planning system linking workforce development to staffing of IMTs.

The NWCG expects to implement the new model over the next five to ten years.

Several interesting facts showed up in the document, such as on page 22:

Although the number of IMTs has remained relatively stable since 2004, the composition of teams has changed. The Federal workforce has shrunk, especially in some parts of the country. For example, the USDA Forest Service workforce in Oregon and Washington has gone from 7,893 employees in 1990 to 3,630 employees in 2010. IMT make-up has shifted from Federal militia to a higher percentage of state, local government, and retired Federal (second career and AD) participation.

And these three charts:
Continue reading “New model for Incident Management Teams”

Incident Management Teams activated for hurricane Irene (Updated)

UPDATE  at 9:06 a.m., August 28, 2011:

In case you are interested in how FEMA is reacting operationally to the response and recovery from Hurricane Irene, here is an excerpt from the FEMA Blog, written this morning:

What We Are Doing

Our immediate focus and priority, as we move from into the response and initial recovery phase, is to do everything we can to support first responders and emergency managers at the frontlines with efforts to keep residents and communities safe. Here’s a brief update on what we’re doing:

  • We’ve proactively positioned a total of 18 Incident Management Assistance Teams along the coast to coordinate with state, tribal and local officials to identify needs and shortfalls affecting potential disaster response and recovery.
  • Six national urban search and rescue teams, comprised of more than 500 personnel, are activated and ready to deploy if needed.
  • Community relations teams are being staged to support states along the East Coast. These teams, if needed, help inform disaster survivors about available services and resources.
  • Mobile Emergency Response System assets have been strategically located along the entire east coast to support emergency response communications needs.


August 27, 2011:

Jim Giachino
Jim Giachino, IC

At least two Incident Management Teams have been activated in response to hurricane Irene. Jim Giachino’s Type 1 team from California will establish and manage a mobilization center at East Farmingdale, New York. Mr. Giachino is affiliated with the Chester Fire Protection District in California and is formerly the Forest Supervisor of the Mendocino National Forest.

A type 3 team will be assigned in the Boston area along with four saw crews. A type 2 crew will be assigned in the New York region.

The National Park Service pre-positioned three of their five all-hazard IMTeams. The Coast Guard staged six of their Disaster Assistance Response Teams, river-rescue units equipped with shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boats, in areas that were expected to be hit by flood waters.

FEMA has activated their Regional Response Coordination Centers in Boston (Region 1), Philadelphia (Region 3), and New York (Region 2) and pre-positioned 18 of their Incident Management Assistance Teams along the east coast. Six national urban search and rescue teams have been placed on alert in the event that search and rescue support is needed.

NWCG to re-think Incident Management Teams

According to a memo sent out by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group on January 15, 2010, they are going to:

..review and analyze alternatives addressing the appropriate number, type, and configuration of the national IMTs (Type 1, Type 2, and Area Command)

The reasons given in a brief memo include the following:

Our current workforce management and succession planning for wildfire response is not sustainable for the future. We recognize that the increasing fire season length is negatively impacting all of our agencies abilities to meet their missions due to personnel serving on teams and having less time to accomplish their normal job duties. We must update our militia based model to better address future incident management demands. NWCG also needs to ensure line officer expectations are adequately addressed for incident management.

A person might wonder why, other than the vague reasons stated above, they are going to consider “updating the incident management business model”, as the memo says. Perhaps the recent disbanding of California Incident Incident Management Team 3 for the stated reason of the lack of a qualified Incident Commander, and difficulties filling positions on teams in general, could be some of the reasons.

The 2009 Type 1 IMTeam assignment list and rotation has already been replaced with a 2010 version, but I believe there were only a handful of Type 1 team assignments in 2009. In a normal year, a team might get two or three 2-week assignments, making it an inconvenience for a team member who does not normally work in fire management. The home unit can get a severe case of heartburn when a person’s absence for a total of four to six weeks causes targets to be missed.

NIMO teamsOne way to mitigate this would be to create more National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) teams, but with the teams having more than just the seven positions as they are currently structured. When I first heard five years ago that year-round IMTeams were going to be created, I thought it was a great idea until I found out the teams would only consist of seven people each.

From Wikipedia:

A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize his or her strengths and minimize his or her weaknesses.

A lot of time in Advanced Incident Management (I-520) is spent on the concept of teams, teamwork, building an effective team, and behavior in a team.  One of the primary reasons IMTeams exist is that the personnel on a team train together and deploy on multiple incidents over a period of years, converting a GROUP into a well-functioning TEAM. But if a team of five is assigned to a major incident, they will have to order, usually blindly, an additional 40-70 additional people and hope for the best. And if they are lucky, near the end of their 2-week assignment some of them may have adapted to become part a team. Then they go home, never to assemble that team again.

Maybe I’m a little slow, but I fail to see what having five seven-person teams does to improve the management of large, complex incidents. Having them show up to look over the shoulders of teams managing Type 1, 2, and 3 fires as they did in 2009 generated complaints.

Am I the only one saying the NIMO emperor is not wearing any clothes? Maybe not. Here are some excerpts from the notes from the California Operations Committee and Incident Commander Meeting, October 27, 2009:

NIMO was mobilized for support to the agency administrator and then the role changed to help the team. NIMO’s role in-between line officer and IC really impacted the relationship/communication between agency administrator and IC and unified command with CalFire added a complication. Would like CWCG direction regarding how NIMO is to be used in CA.


…team lost effectiveness working under NIMO and communications were an issue. Need to communicate NIMO protocols upon mobilization.


Often times the intent of mobilizing a NIMO team is to help the situation and in fact, they often times created confusion, blocked communication, and hindered efficiency.

In a perfect world, we would have five, 45-person year-round NIMO teams, but it is unlikely we’ll ever see that happen. Increasing the size of the NIMO teams to at least 25 people could result in them having key positions down to the Unit Leader and Division Supervisor level reliably filled, and would maintain a decent-sized core Team that could, after ordering the additional 15-45 people needed for a large, complex incident, function as a Team. Then they could serve as an Incident Management Team, rather than second-guessing other teams and getting in the way.

I am sure that the NIMO teams do some good work. According to the only *accomplishment report (no longer available) on the NIMO site which covers portions of 2006-2007, the teams get involved in activities other than fire, including “training, quality assurance, fuels management, fuels implementation, fire and resource management support, NWCG projects, cost containment, and leadership development”. They must be too busy to post any recent accomplishment reports.

*UPDATE March 11, 2010:

A new Accomplishment Report covering 2008 (no longer available) has been added to the NIMO web site since we wrote this article on January 22, 2010.

Type 1 Incident Management Team in California disbanded

Bill Molumby, as Deputy IC on the Lincoln Complex in Montana, Aug. 20, 2003
Bill Molumby, as Deputy IC on the Lincoln Complex in Montana, Aug. 20, 2003

One of the five Type 1 Incident Management Teams in California is being disbanded. Bill Molumby who had been Team 2’s Incident Commander for several years retired in November and apparently they are having a hard time replacing him. Mr. Molumby had worked for the U.S. Forest Service for a couple of decades, mostly on the Cleveland National Forest in southern California, and for the last several years of his federal career worked for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Fire Management Officer for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex/Southern California Zone

The California Wildfire Coordinating Group (CWCG) explained in a letter to the wildfire agencies why they decided to disband the team:

Participation on California Type 1 and Type 2 Incident Management Teams (IMTs) continues to decline. In 2009 all Type 1 Deputy IC positions were filled by employees previously retired from federal service and employed by local fire departments or hired by federal agencies under the AD authority during incidents. There were no new applicants for trainee Type 1 IC positions from the ranks of the Type 2 IMTs. CWCG has made the decision to reduce the number of Type 1 IMTs for 2010 due to the lack of qualified Incident Commanders and trainees. The Incident Commander of California IMT#2 (CIIMT 2) has retired and this team will be disbanded.

We have been hearing for decades that with so many experienced firefighters retiring “soon”, that there would be great difficulty in filling upper level positions in wildfire organizations and on incident management teams. Frequently in meetings of firefighters a speaker would ask all those that are retiring in the next 2-3 years to raise their hands, and it always seemed that there were a lot of hands in the air.

With some of the mistakes and errors in judgment that we have seen recently on wildfires and escaped prescribed fires, it makes you wonder if the chickens have finally come home to roost. Would it have made a difference if a more experienced person had made these decisions?

In an email on January 8 to some of his friends and former workmates, Mr. Molumby had this to say, in part, about disbanding Team 2. It is used here with his permission.

CIIMT2_logoThe decision to disband Team 2 at first take was purely a business decision, albeit the wrong decision. The primary issue raised was the lack of a federal incident commander as stated. This of course is contrary to previous decisions; hence, it appears as an excuse. I am stunned though at the lost California has just experienced in not accepting Joe Stutler as the incident commander. Joe stepped up and offered to lead the team with the intent of mentoring a “federal” replacement. There were those federal employees qualified to be his deputy but failed to redeem their responsibility. What was important though is what this meant to California and the national incident management team community. Joe not only brought excellence, as demonstrated in his years as a type 1 incident commander, but he brought more experience than all of the current California type 1 incident commanders combined (I venture to guess)! Be that as it may, this will be evaluated in years gone by for what transpires, not what we imagine.

Joe Stutler
Joe Stutler

Joe Stutler has offered to lead the team in order to mentor a trainee Type 1 IC until that person could become qualified for the position, but apparently the offer was not accepted.

Mr. Stutler was a long-time Type 1 IC, including leading Pacific Northwest Team 3. He retired from the federal government after working for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for 34 years and since 2004 has been the forester for Deschutes County in Oregon. He served as Lead Investigator for numerous wildland fire accidents and entrapments. His Type 1 team assumed command of the Thirtymile fire after the burnover that took the lives of four firefighters in 2001. The Seattle PI still has an interesting article online about that incident and Mr. Stutler’s team.