Simulation developed for managing wildfires during COVID-19

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.

The National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) teams are working on procedures for managing wildland fire organizations and suppressing wildfires during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is an update from NIMO.

Friday May 1, 2020

NIMO has been involved for some weeks now, with the development of a fire/COVID-19 simulation to help IMT’s and Agency Administrators prepare for fire in the new COVID environment this coming summer. If you wish to take part in one of the regional simulations, please contact your GATR..

COVID-19 Wildland Fire Simulation Development and Delivery
Date: April 27, 2020

Summary: Fire and Aviation Management (FAM), Workforce Development, Risk Management, Human Dimensions-Rocky Mountain Research Station, and National Incident Management Organization are collaborating to develop and deliver a late spring 2020 COVID-19 Wildland Fire Response Simulation.

The intended audience is Line Officers, Type 3 and higher complex Incident Management Teams (IMTs), and community partners. The intent of this virtual simulation is to facilitate dialog with Line Officers and IMTs on the use of Best Management Practices to make informed decisions, while providing an opportunity to evaluate and learn from those decisions. The exercise will highlight leadership principles and concepts, risk assessment processes, Gifford Pinchot’s Maxims, agency policy and direction; all within a complex fire situation under the constraints of a Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) environment where participants will perform functional and team responsibilities.

The simulation will provide for both Operational Risk assessment and Quantitative Risk evaluation using the Risk Assessment Worksheet (RAW, and tools such as the atlas of Potential Control Locations (PCL), Suppression Difficulty Index (SDI), and asset layers.

This simulation will also prepare Line Officers and IMTs to use a whole host of decision tools including the 2020 Chief’s letter, Leadership Stance and Habits, and Center for Disease Control guidance, while evaluating decisions based on Social, Political, Health, and Safety considerations. Each simulation will be broken into two parts:
1) Morning session consisting of education, policy, guidance, and information
2) Afternoon session is the simulation with practical exercises

The Simulation will break participants into four teams to include representation of Line Officer(s), IMT Command and General Staff section chiefs, and partners, totaling no more than10 people per team. Delivery will be through Adobe Connect and will begin with Alpha and Beta test deliveries. Each delivery will be followed by an After Action Review (AAR). Closed captioning capabilities are available with at least a 48-hour notice prior to delivery. Below is the tentative schedule.
1. May 6 – Alpha delivery to Field Command School and NATP students
2. Week of May 11 Beta delivery to Regions 8 and 9
3. Week of May 18 Delivery to Regions 3 and 10
4. Week of May 25 Delivery to Regions 2 and 5
5. Week of June 1 Delivery to Regions 4 and 6
6. Week of June 8 Delivery to Region 1

Regional Training Officers will be advertising for, and prioritizing, participants for each simulation.

Please contact Jay Winfield at or 208-993-0768 for additional information.


Update on firefighters’ response to Hurricane Sandy


Laguna Hotshots clearing a road in West Virginia
Laguna Hotshots clearing a road in West Virginia

There has not been much change since yesterday in the number of wildland firefighters that are assisting with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy in the eastern United States. There are still 11 Incident Management Teams, 40 hand crews, and about 1,100 personnel that have been mobilized through the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise.

Some of the tasks they are working on include:

  • Operating a receiving and distribution center.
  • Using chain saws to clear debris off roads.
  • Supporting chain saw crews that are clearing roads.
  • Supporting a FEMA Community Relations Base Camp
  • Managing points of distribution.
  • Developing plan for debris removal.
  • Operating a mobilization center.
The photo of the Laguna Hotshots above came from their web site (which automatically plays country music when you visit the site). The other photos below were supplied by the National Incident Management Organization (NIMO). If you have photos of the crews in action, send us a copy.
Hotshots being briefed in New York
Hotshots being briefed at a Logistical Staging Area in New York
Logistical Staging Area in New York
Logistical Staging Area in New York, November, 2012.
Bill Hahnenberg debris removal NYC Sandy
Bill Hahnenberg (on the right), Incident Commander of the Portland NIMO IMTeam, planning debris removal with a NYC official

75% turnover in NIMO Incident Commanders

Updated November 4, 2012

NIMOIn recent months there has been a 75 percent turnover in the Incident Commander positions on the four National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) Teams.

NIMO Incident Commanders

And in one respect there has been a 100 percent turnover temporarily, because Bob Houseman was not available to take his Phoenix NIMO team on their current assignment to Hurricane Sandy because he is teaching a class, so the acting IC on the Boise team, Kleinman, went with the Phoenix team to New York City.

The 2012 National Mobilization Guide requires that Type 1 Incident Commanders respond with their team on national assignments:

Type 1 IMTs will be considered unavailable for a National assignment if the primary Incident Commander is unavailable or it is necessary to have more than two (2) substitutes to fill Command/General Staff positions. The Deputy Incident Commander may be allowed to take the team with Geographic Area Multi-Coordinating Group (GMAC) approval. An IMT that is not available for a National assignment will be listed as unavailable on the national rotation list.

The National Mobilization Guide appears to place NIMO and conventional Type 1 teams in the same category for most of the guidelines, so the above most likely applies to both types of teams. However we checked with Robin Cole, the US Forest Service NIMO manager, who said she had never heard of this rule. In fact, she said, they “…normally have 5 fully qualified Type 1 ICs and two Type 1 IC trainees. Since the teams don’t have a Deputy IC position those other qualified ICs get used as the back-up IC at times.”

It appears that there is turmoil in the ranks of the NIMO teams. The Boise team has been deactivated because the IC and Planning Section Chief positions are vacant. NIMO teams are very different from conventional Type 1 incident management teams which are comprised of individuals who only work with the team when it has been dispatched to an incident. These Type 1 teams usually respond with 30 to 50 people, or more.

NIMO teams only have seven positions and they work full-time on the team, even when they are not assigned to an incident. The positions are not only positions on a team, but they are jobs, filled much like any other job in the US Forest Service, which hires, pays, and manages the NIMO teams. If a person transfers out of a NIMO job, then that position is vacant on the team.

Usually a person in a position on a conventional team remains on the team at least until the end of the fire season, or until the end of a longer commitment. If their regular job changes through a promotion or a transfer, they usually stay on the team until the end of the season.


The web site for the NIMO teams has not been updated in a while. Ms. Cole told us that they don’t have direct access to edit or revise the site. They are working on moving it to a different address so that they will have more control.


Hurricane Sandy, firefighting resources update, November 1, 2012

The primary mission of these firefighters is debris removal and road clearance for electrical power personnel.

Hurricane Sandy Firefighting Resources Committed as of November 1, 2012 at 0600.


  • Incident Management Team Type 2 (Grant)
  • Two Type 2IA Crews (MI & MN)

New York

  • Three Type 2 Crews
  • Two Type 1 Interagency Hotshot Crews (Cherokee short IHC, and Augusta short IHC)
  • Five 2 person Saw Crews
  • Two Incident Management Team Type 2: (Pisarek) operating at East Farmingdale, and the Maine IMTeam (IC Jeff Currier) operating in Brooklyn.
  • NIMO (National Incident Management Organization) (Quesenberry) assigned to support Nassau County NY.
  • NIMO (Kleinman) assigned to NYC Mob Center in route
  • NIMO (Hahnenberg) assigned to NY State Coordination Center in route

Massachusetts: Fort Devens

  • Incident Management Team Type 2 (Kollmeyer)

Pennsylvania: Harrisburg

  • Incident Management Team Type 1 (Wilder)
  • Two Type 2 crews
  • Five IHC Crews (Fulton, Breckenridge, Los Padres, Palomar, Laguna) arriving 11/1/12

West Virginia: Charleston

  • Type 2 IA Crew

It is interesting that none of the Incident Commanders listed on the web site for the four NIMO teams are participating in this incident. At least one of them, Steve Gage, has moved to another job. There is no way to tell when the web site was last updated. We are checking on this and will have more information later about the NIMO teams.

HERE is a link to a five-minute podcast Jennifer Jones, a Public Affairs Specialist with the USFS in Boise did yesterday with Steve Gage, the new Assistant Director for Operations with the USFS at NIFC, about using IMTeams and fire crews to help with hurricanes and other non-fire emergencies.

Update on wildfire resources responding to Hurricane Sandy recovery

Since our report yesterday about the wildfire resources being sent to the east coast to assist with the recovery from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, there has been an increase in the numbers heading east. Yesterday there were 2 Incident Management Teams and 7 crews or portions of crews being mobilized. Today 5 incident management teams and 11 wildfire suppression crews or portions of crews, for a total of more than 200 personnel, are ordered, staged in, or en route to New York, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. One of the IMTeams is a National Incident Management Organization, or NIMO team. (We need to come up with a better name for these teams. “National Incident Management Organization Team” is almost as bad a term as “fire for resource benefits”.)

The firefighters ordered, en route, staged, or on scene include:

  • Two interagency hotshot crews, one 20-person Type 2 wildfire suppression hand crew, one 10-person saw crew, and one short Type 2 incident management team (Pisarek) are staged at or en route to Republic Airport, Farmingdale, New York (Long Island). The IMTeam will be operating a supply depot.
  • Two 20-person Type 2 wildfire suppression handcrews are enroute to Washington, DC. A short Type 2 incident management team has been ordered for Washington, DC.
  • Three 20-person Type 2 wildfire suppression handcrews en route to Pennsylvania. A short Type 2 IMTeam has been ordered for Annville, Pennsylvania.
  • The Southwest National Incident Management Organization team (Houseman) has been sent to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Dan Kleinman will be the Incident Commander.
  • Two 20-person Type 2 wildfire suppression hand crews and one short Type 2 incident management team (Grant) staged at Fort Deven, Massachusetts.

I expect that as responders switch from rescue to recovery and are able to gain access to the impacted areas through blocked roads to access the damage, there will be increasing demands for crews and perhaps IMTeams.

Sunday one-liners, October 14, 2012

The area of Colorado Springs that was devastated by the Waldo Canyon fire is rising from the ashes.

The Fern Lake Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park has burned 673 acres but received some rain and snow on Saturday. The fire is being managed by a National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) team.

Horsethief Canyon Fire and bike race
Bicycle racers ride past the Horsethief Canyon fire, September, 2012. Photo by David Cernicek

Some people prayed that the Horsethief Canyon fire would burn down the city of Jackson, Wyoming last month.