Everyone Goes Home in the Wildland program is introduced

Above: WFF Executive Director Vicki Minor and NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki. Screenshot from the video referenced below.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) is announcing a new initiative directed toward wildland firefighters. Today with the support of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF), they are introducing the Everyone Goes Home in the Wildland program. It is an offshoot of the Everyone Goes Home® (EGH) program established by the NFFF in 2004 featuring the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. Their goal was to “help the U.S. Fire Administration achieve its objective of reducing the number of preventable firefighter fatalities”.

In 2017 the NFFF began a series of six listening sessions around the United States asking firefighting personnel for their ideas about how to reduce line of duty deaths and injuries on wildland fires. Input was also obtained from natural resource management organizations that have not traditionally identified themselves as part of what we know collectively as “the fire service.”

Drawing from their success in reducing LODDs among structural firefighters through programs under the Everyone Goes Home® umbrella, the NFFF now proposes to leverage their strengths and resources to do the same for wildland firefighters.

The actions taken today include the release of a video in which WFF Executive Director Vicki Minor and NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki discuss their collaboration and adoption of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives in the wildland environment.

In addition, a 12-page report is available that summarizes the findings of the NFFF’s wildland firefighting needs assessment, including the surveys and listening sessions. This paper will be the guiding document for this effort, prioritizing EGH program development for wildland firefighters in the near future.

Today the WFF and NFFF also released a tri-fold brochure designed to introduce the concepts of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives to the wildland firefighter. It is designed to be downloaded and printed by organizations, either professionally or on a standard copier.

Honor Guard personnel from wildland fire agencies represented at Family Fire Weekend

The annual event commemorates fallen wildland firefighters

Above: Honor Guard representatives at the Family Fire Weekend in Boise last month. USFWS photo.

At this year’s Family Fire Weekend organized by the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, representatives of honor guards from firefighting agencies participated in special ceremonies at the national Wildland Firefighters Monument. The event was held at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise May 19 and 20, 2018.

Honor Guards from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian affairs, and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection presented colors to open the event on Saturday. Three bagpipers – traditionally used to honor fallen firefighters and police offers – accompanied the group. Honor guard members then interacted informally with other participants. On Sunday, the interagency honor guard led a procession of families to the Wildland Firefighters Monument and laid flowers on individual markers commemorating deceased members of the wildland fire family.

“This was a good opportunity to honor the fallen, including our Service comrades commemorated at the monument,” said Chris Wilcox, Branch Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System Fire Management headquartered at NIFC.

honor guard fire family weekend boise firefighters
Members of the USFWS Honor Guard at the Wildland Firefighters Monument lay flowers on the commemorative marker for Richard S. Bolt, the first FWS employee to die in the line of duty while fighting a wildland fire. (left to right) Mike Koole, National Bison Range; Bruce Butler. USFWS photo.

In addition to firefighters who were killed in the line of duty, the monument has markers for some fire management employees who died of other causes — for example, Shane del Grosso, the USFWS Mountain-Prairie Region Fire Management Specialist based at Huron South Dakota who died by suicide in 2016.

The suicide rate among wildland firefighters has been described as “astronomical”, so it could be a stretch to assume a suicide is not, at least to a degree, a line of duty death.

Help:

One Foot in the Black Beer benefits WFF

A brewery in Virginia has developed a special beer that not only recognizes wildland firefighters but will help support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF). The One Foot in the Black beer is a smoked black IPA that was brewed to honor wildland firefighters. According to the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, it has “a smoky flavor that that interplays with the pine character of American hops”.

The name of the special brew comes from the advice to stay on the edge of the burned area on a wildland fire because usually it can be used as a safety zone. The beer was designed by brewer Erik Filep who himself is a wildland firefighter.

The company will donate 50 percent of the per pint and per growler sales to the WFF, a non-profit organization that assists wildland firefighters and the families of firefighters injured or killed while on the job.

This is not the first time a brewer has supported the WFF. In 2014 during the Coors Banquet “Protect Our West” program, the company contributed 25 cents to the WFF for every case of the beer sold in select states in the Western region throughout July and August, up to $250,000.

Coors Wildland Firefighter Foundation
TSN Advertising photo from 2014.

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

Former Board members criticize Wildland Firefighter Foundation

wildland firefighter foundation logoThe Wildland Firefighter Foundation is in the news again for issues between the staff and the Board of Directors. Below is an excerpt from an article by Rocky Barker in the Idaho Statesman:

Three board members left the Wildland Firefighter Foundation earlier this month saying the charity hasn’t made the changes necessary after a controversy over the leadership of its founder and director Vicki Minor.

Cheryl Molis, a retired Forest Service administrative manager and treasurer of the group from Boise, Dan Friend, former Eagle Fire Chief and Boise attorney Steve Smith stepped down after Minor, who is beloved in the wildland firefighting community for her aid to the families of killed and injured firefighters, elevated her assistant to chief financial officer.

The three raised questions about her qualifications and independence from Minor and her son Burk who run the group that raises $2 million and distributes $400,000 to the families of down firefighters.

“They want to run it like a family business, not a non-profit,” said Molis.

Minor praised all three and said they had timed out on the board. Minor took issue with Molis…

Similar issues have been going on since at least April, 2015.

Changes at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Rocky Barker has an article in the Idaho Statesman about how criticism of the organization has brought about changes. Below is an excerpt:

The harsh words from some of the surviving family members of fallen firefighters about the Wildland Firefighter Foundation weren’t easy to hear for Vicki Minor, the executive director and founder of the group that is dedicated to helping them.

I reported in February that critics and former board members said the foundation has grown too fast and had too few controls in place to ensure proper spending. But it was the view of some family members that they were treated poorly or forgotten that was tough on the Boise woman who has dedicated more than 16 years to help firefighters’ families through their grief.

Minor said this week that she and the foundation are better for the scrutiny.

“Actually, I’m grateful we had this done,” Minor said. “(This has) helped us become better at what we do, and that is taking care of wildland firefighters.”

An independent review conducted by Boise consultant Karyn Wood for the foundation’s board confirmed many of the shortcomings I reported in February. There was a lack of clear policies and there was little oversight on expenses, reporting on how they gave money to firefighter survivors and clarity about how the money they raised was spent…

Wildland Firefighter Foundation helps families, but draws criticism

Wildland Firefighter statue
The statue of a wildland firefighter that was removed from the Boise Airport and placed in Prescott, Arizona July 9, 2013 at the site of the memorial service for the 19 firefighters killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

There is no doubt that the Wildland Firefighter Foundation has accomplished much to help injured firefighters and the families of fallen firefighters. Vicki Minor, the Executive Director, is well known for the hands-on emotional and financial support she has provided through the foundation. We have been a member of their “52 Club” for years, and many times on this site we have praised their work and helped to publicize some of their fund raising activities.

We were troubled when in early December a television station in Arizona published an article in which they quoted some family members of the 19 firefighters that were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire who were not satisfied with the level of assistance they received from the WFF. One of their criticisms was that the foundation did not donate all of the money they received after the tragedy to the families. They did not take into account that the WFF had a larger mission than just that one horrible incident. The WFF said that all of the funds earmarked by the contributors for the Yarnell Hill Fire were given to the families.

The spotlight on the organization revealed management issues within the WFF that were concerning.

Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman has written an in-depth article that explores the controversy while also providing examples of assistance the WFF has provided to firefighters and their families.