Robert Baird named California Regional Fire Director for USFS

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The U.S. Forest Service has selected Robert Baird as the next Fire Director for the agency’s Pacific Southwest Region, Region 5, which is comprised of California and Hawaii. Mr. Baird’s experience in the USFS began in November, 2011 shortly after he left the U.S. Marine Corp after serving there for 25 years. At that time he was appointed to the position of Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation Management in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Forest Service.

In 2014 Mr. Baird was chosen to be the Forest Supervisor of the Los Padres National Forest in southern California.

“I’m very pleased to welcome Bob Baird as our Regional Director for Fire and Aviation Management,” said Randy Moore, regional forester. “Bob has demonstrated expertise in managing large, complex organizations and he has developed innovative strategies to build partnerships and coalitions. Bob’s leadership background and experience are a perfect fit for this key position. We look forward to a challenging, but successful fire season with Bob at the helm.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of this opportunity,” said Mr. Baird. “I’ve had the great pleasure of serving both at the forest level and at the Washington office level, and this regional position will tie those experiences together.

Mr. Baird is expected to report May 15.

Wildfire briefing, May 24, 2014

The reason one speaker did not show up at a fire conference

I was really looking forward to one of the presentations at the Large Fire Conference last week in Missoula. I confirmed on the schedule the time and room for the talk, got a good seat, and waited for it to begin. Instead of the fire expert that had been advertised, someone made an announcement that the speaker could not make it due to “travel issues”.

I found out today, Sunday, that even though the speaker’s topic had been approved by the program committee, the talk was advertised on the web site and in the program issued on the first day of the conference, the speaker registered for the conference, the talk had been prepared, and a hotel reservation had been made, the person’s employer, the National Park Service, at the last minute did not authorize the travel.

The speaker would have driven to the conference, a two to four hour drive from the place of work. And there would have been some lodging and per diem expenses as well.

Either there is something strange going on at that NPS site, or there is a serious budget problem that makes it very difficult for NPS employees to spend any money on travel, at least at that location.

Marines rescue memorial crosses in front of wildfire

Marines save memorial crosses
Marines save memorial crosses. Photo by Cpl. Marvin Arnold/Marine Corps.

About two dozen wooden memorial crosses at Camp Pendleton in California were rescued and removed shortly before a wildfire on May 16. The crosses represent fallen Camp Pendleton Marines. Below is an excerpt from the Marine Corp Times:

When [Cpl. Marvin] Arnold saw smoke nearing the hill on May 16, he began canvassing his company for volunteers.

“From a distance, you could see one or two of the crosses, and we knew they were going to catch on fire if we didn’t get them,” he said.

Ultimately, Arnold assembled six other Marines and three pickup trucks: two to collect and carry the crosses down from the steep hill, and one to stand as a lookout for the fire. It took the Marines less than an hour to finish their task, but they made it just in time.

“When we were pulling the last two of them out, we were at the edge of the hill and the fire was perhaps 30 feet away from us,”Arnold said.

After they left, the fires burned across the hill. For Arnold, saving the crosses was not just about preserving a piece of Pendleton tradition; it was about saving one of the few memorial locations that Marines can call their own, he said.

Former Marine now a Forest Supervisor in California

In another story about, in this case, a FORMER Marine, Robert Baird, the Deputy Director for Operations for Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington DC since 2011, has accepted the position of Forest Supervisor on the Los Padres National Forest in Goleta CA. Before he took the USFS job in D.C. Mr. Baird was a Branch Head in the Center For Irregular Warfare with the Marine Corps. Since January, Mr. Baird has been on a detail from the USFS to the State of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as an Acting Deputy Director.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to David and Dick.

USFS Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation talks about pyroterrorism

Robert Baird
Robert Baird

The U.S. Forest Service’s Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation Management spoke about pyroterrorism in a keynote address at the Firehouse World conference in San Diego this week.

After serving in the Marine Corps for 25 years, mostly as a planner, Mr. Baird was appointed to his position in the Forest Service in November of 2011. While attending Marine Corps University he wrote a paper titled Pyroterrorism: The Threat of Arson Induced Forest Fires as a Terrorist Weapon, and an article on the same subject, Profiles in Pyroterrorism: Convergence of crime, terrorism and wildfire unleash as a weapon on population.

At the conference this week, according to Firehouse, Mr. Baird mentioned several incidents that could be classified as pyroterrorism, including the Japanese fire balloons during the second World War, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and the arson fires set by Raymond Lee Oyler, one of them being the Esperanza Fire that killed a 5-person USFS engine crew. He also referred to an article in an al Qaeda magazine that called for Western Muslims to wage war within the United States, urging them to engage in lone wolf attacks, including setting forest fires.

Below is an excerpt from the Firehouse article:

In 2004, the FBI came upon intelligence and issued an alert to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) suggesting that Al Queda had plans to start wildland fires in Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, Baird said, noting that all the material he was presenting was unclassified information and his interpretations and analysis were his own.

“I am not going to be some suit out of Washington, D.C., coming out here and telling you how to fight wildland fires,” said Baird, who added that his family in California was evacuated during the Camp Pendleton fire.


Before you put out the fire, frame the problem

Frame the problemWhen firefighters arrive at a fire, they face a problem — the fire. In most cases they are directed to suppress it, but unless the fire is very small the best tactics and strategy may not be immediately obvious. You could “cowboy up”, aggressively and directly attacking the perimeter of the fire, but that is not always the best choice. A seasoned firefighter and leader may choose to step back and look at alternatives.

Marc Rounsaville, the former Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, and a former Area Commander, recently posted an article on his web site about framing the problem BEFORE you attempt to solve it.  Here is an excerpt, reproduced here with Chief Rounsaville’s permission:

…My incident management experience frequently had me in the role of listening for the problem frame and asking the questions to ensure we weren’t missing some critical aspect of the problem. Emergency responders are trained to respond, to have a bias for action. It is easy to jump in and start doing before you figure out what to do. Many wildland fire units have a default setting of going “direct” on a fire. This means get as close as you can and keep the fire as small as possible by working right on the edge. The problem frame is simply, “Keep the fire as small as possible.” This doesn’t leave many options. Now, think about opening the frame a bit to, “Keep the fire as small as possible while maintaining the highest degree of safety.” If actually applied this requires some level of analysis for risk and safety. A different range of alternatives begin to emerge.

Opening the frame a little wider to, “Provide for a high level of safety and keep the fire as small as possible using the best natural control features.” Again, an even wider range of possible solutions emerge as well as the requirement to think a little more deeply about the situation. This thinking or reflecting will most likely bring more ideas to the surface. This new ideas may not have ever emerged had the responders focused strictly on physically doing something.

Robert Baird will be the new of Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service.

USFS appoints a Marine as Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation

We were surprised when the U.S. Forest Service appointed a person with no on-the-ground fire experience to be Deputy Regional Forester for Fire and Aviation Management in the California Region. That trend is continuing, but at a higher level.

Robert Baird
Robert Baird

Robert Baird has accepted the position of Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation Management in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Forest Service. Mr. Baird is currently the Branch Head, Center for Irregular Warfare, US Marine Corps, in Quantico, Virginia.

Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the USFS, told us that in his new position Mr. Baird will supervise the following functions:

  • Washington Office-State and Private Forestry / Fire and Aviation Management Assistant Director for Fire Operations located at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho;
  • Washington Office-S&PF/FAM Assistant Director for Risk Management located at NIFC;
  • Washington Office-S&PF/FAM Assistant Director for Aviation located in Washington, D.C.

Mr.Baird will report to WO-S&PF/FAM Director Tom Harbour.

HERE is a link to the organizational chart for USFS Fire and Aviation Management in the Washington Office. (If it is sideways, in Adobe Reader, click View/Rotate.) The chart was current as of May 11, 2011 and shows Rich Kvale in the Deputy Director position, who is being replaced by Mr. Baird.

On his Linkedin page, Mr. Baird describes his present duties as: “Explore, Develop, Coordinate, Plan, and Integrate IW Concepts for the Marine Corps”. From a brief bio that was provided for an event in 2010, his experience included:

  • Planner in Afghanistan for special operations integration and implementation
  • Planner in Iraq to establish initial Iraqi police capability in one province
  • Director of Operations for the Marine Corps University/Education Command
  • Lead planner for I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) rapid response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita
  • Chief of Plans for I MEF
  • He obtained a Masters of Operational Studies from Marine Corps University

Mr. Baird is also a former seasonal police officer for Ocean City, Maryland.

He has written a paper titled Profiles in Pyroterrorism: Convergence of crime, terrorism and wildfire unleash as a weapon on population. Wildfire comes up another time in his profile on Linkedin where he said he “Planned for Wildland Fire Fighting contingency mission, served in MCB Emergency Ops Center, and personally supported displacement of Div Cmd Post due to wildfire.”

We very much support the concept of hiring veterans and have highlighted such programs in the past, but we would be more comfortable if the person who is second in command in USFS Fire and Aviation Management had more wildland fire experience and knowledge than we have seen listed for Mr. Baird.

Thanks go out to Dick