NORTHERN ROCKIES COORDINATING GROUP MEETING
Fairmont Hot Springs, Montana
October 13-14, 1999
Phil Street, Fish and Wildlife Service
Doug Williams, Montana Firewardens
Rick Hafenfeld, Department of Interior Representative
Tom Boatner, Bureau of Land Management
Steve Schumacher, Fish and Wildlife Service (North Dakota Zone Representative)
Dave Hart, Forest Service (Training Committee Chairman)
Fred Van Horn, National Park Service (Northwest Montana Zone Representative)
Stephen Morris, Forest Service (Voice and Data Task Force Chairman)
Tad Kolwicz, Montana DNRC (Southwest Montana Zone Representative)
Mike Plattes, Forest Service
Ann Herman, Bureau of Land Management (Business Committee Representative)
Byron Bonney, Forest Service (North Idaho Zone Representative)
Tim Murphy, Montana DNRC
Dennis Milburn, Forest Service (Operations Committee Chairman)
Brian Shiplett, Idaho Department of Lands
Cory Winnie, Bureau of Indian Affairs
Cathy Scofield, Forest Service
Jim Greene, Montana Disaster and Emergency Services
Sandy Evenson, Forest Service
Russ Davis, Bureau of Indian Affairs (Chairman, NRCG)
The Northern Rockies Coordinating Group Board of Directors presented two zone awards this year, rather than recognize individual performance. The North Dakota Zone was recognized for their efforts in organizing the zone in a short amount of time. They have become a fully functional zone who contributes to the interagency spirit of the Northern Rockies Coordinating Group.
The Northwest Montana Zone was recognized for their efforts in developing a zone wide fire prevention plan; implementing joint interagency fire prevention projects; actively working with the media on fire conditions, prevention awareness, and restrictions; and for proactively assessing the fire season conditions and implementing zone wide measures.
OLD BUSINESS - Sandy Evenson
Action: the Voice and Data Task Force needs to identify (by agency if possible) the issues and groups/agencies that will not be able to talk to each other and what the ramifications of that will be. There will be safety issues. We may not be able to affect the solution, but we can make agency administrators aware of the problems we will be facing. Accomplishment: The Task Force has not met yet. Many of the members of the original task force are no longer around; Stephen Morris was given new names. He will get a meeting set up and report back at the spring meeting. Action to be carried forward.
Action: Continue to pursue engine/tender contract. Accomplishment: This action will not be pursued and is dropped.
Action: Update old NRCG supplement to Fireline Handbook. Accomplishment: Operations Committee will work on this during the winter. Dennis Milburn found out in an informal survey that very few people had copies of the current (but outdated) NRCG supplement in their Fireline Handbooks right now. It is almost impossible to ensure all copies of the handbook are kept up to date, so it will be necessary to be very selective about any supplements that should be in the handbook. Action to be carried forward.
Action: Develop an operating plan for the Northern Rockies Coordination Center. Accomplishment: Mike Plattes almost has a draft done which will be shared with the Board of Directors. Action to be carried forward.
Action: Form a Northern Rockies Fire Management Use Team. Evaluate how it worked in the fall. Accomplishment: Team was formed but was not dispatched in 1999. Action completed.
Action: Finalize action plan from the 1998 fire season review. Accomplishment: Draft action plan has been completed. Rick Hafenfeld, Dennis Milburn, and Cathy Scofield will go through draft and make action item assignments.
Action: Develop an overview of available options to agencies when dealing with EEO issues. Accomplishment: This action item was assigned to Debby Hall, Forest Service Personnel Management Specialist. Debby said it would not be possible to provide overall, encompassing direction since all agencies may not operate the same and there may be too broad of a spectrum of issues that would need to be covered. Debby wants to continue to work with NRCG on specific issues when they arise. Action will be dropped.
TECHNICAL SPECIALIST ISSUE -- Fred Van Horn
The Northwest Montana Zone believes the NRCG letter issued May 24, 1999, "Operating Procedures for Hiring and Utilizing Fireline Specialists" was tiered to the October 1993 version of the 310-1. The wording in the March 1999 version of the 310-1 is vague and causes confusion in regards to the minimum requirements for technical specialists. Further, the Northwest Montana Zone feels that by not allowing for the use of closest forces (while still providing for their safety as the first priority) during initial attack has the potential to increase fire escapes, thereby increasing overall risks to firefighters and to the public. And last, the Northwest Montana zone recommends that when NRCG approves policy or policy changes that manual supplements be prepared.
To deal with a part of the above issue, the Northwest Montana Zone issued Zone direction on the use of technical specialists. There was discussion that the Northwest Montana Zone direction implies you can operate not safely if you are in a hurry and that the standards for survival requirements are not met.
DECISION: The NRCG letter of May 24, 1999, is accurate if the 310-1 issues are cleaned up.
DECISION: NRCG agrees it is important for agency supplements be updated when new direction is issued. In the interim, the direction will be posted on the NRCG Web Page (www.fs.fed.us/r1/fire/nrcc).
ACTION ITEM: Three members of NRCG (Tim Murphy, Phil Street, and Tom Boatner) are on the committee which will be meeting next week to try to finalize the 310-1 handbook. The NRCG members will make the recommendation that the 310-1 handbook use the October 1993 wording regarding technical specialists.
BUSINESS COMMITTEE -- Ann Herman
The Business Committee has been endeavoring unsuccessfully to implement a pilot project in two counties designed to incorporate county personnel into finance and logistics positions in the incident management organization. While this seems like a good idea, the Business Committee has not had time to work on it. Furthermore, the Pacific Northwest has implemented a contract to provide personnel and equipment time recorders.
The Interagency Incident Business Management Handbook Supplements will be reviewed this winter. A new version of the IIBMH is due in the spring of 2000 and the NRCG supplements will be in agreement with the revised IIBMH.
Both team leaders for the Type I Buying Teams are resigning at the end of this fire season. There is a volunteer to lead one team. Administration of these teams and the associated training will be a big task this winter.
FIRE USE COMMITTEE -- Byron Bonney
The Fire Use Committee's last meeting was last June. The Allocation Guidelines draft was finalized.
No change in committee members for next year. Fire Use Committee will meet again in December 1999.
OPERATIONS -- Dennis Milburn
Operations Committee will be looking at the outdated supplement in the Fireline Handbook. Dennis would like permission to only put in the Fireline Handbook those things that are pertinent to the Northern Rockies. Dennis stated when he asked committee members to look at the old supplement, none of them had a copy.
Drawdown plans -- Dennis asked Zone Representatives what kind of drawdown plans they have. He found out there are various degrees of plans available, but there does not appear to be a formalized plan in the zones. There are a smattering of agency plans, some county plans, etc. Dennis feels there is a pretty good idea of what resources are available, the question is how do we determine what is available for dispatch outside zones--it changes so rapidly on a day to day basis. When ROSS is finalized, it should have resources categorized differently which should help in the planning process. NRCG agrees at this point there is no need to take further action on drawdown plans.
A related issue, but somewhat different, is the Mobilization Board Guide Tim Murphy passes out once a year. There is still a disconnect between some dispatch centers and the mobilization boards.
The Operations Committee Charter states the committee is to provide oversight to the Fire Cache. This is not currently being done. There have been some cache management concerns lately. Dennis is going to have the Operations Committee visit the cache and understand how they work, how bills are processed, cache return policy, etc. There was a suggestion made that the cache should be looking at bar coding.
TRAINING -- Dave Hart
The Training Committee will meet on November 3 and will be doing prioritization for training courses.
The Central Montana Zone is wanting to try a different way to prioritize and submit training nominations. The NRCG Directors are agreeable to try a new system for the Central Montana Zone. However, the Zone will not get additional training slots due to their change. A concern from the NRCG Directors is that this could cause the Zone to become too scattered and if it does, they will need to revert to the original method.
PREVENTION -- Cathy Scofield
Last year the Prevention Committee co-sponsored a workshop with the Great Basin and the Northern Rockies. The workshop was deemed a great success.
The Committee is trying to finalize a strategic plan for prevention for the Geographic Area.
Yellowstone National Park has come up with a display for defensible space which the Committee will review.
The Committee is looking at a way to consolidate all the human-caused fire date for the Geographic Area to identify what the problem is and what can be done to mitigate it.
The Prevention Committee will review the report done by the wildland fire prevention team this summer.
VOICE AND DATA COMMUNICATION TASK FORCE -- Stephen Morris
Will be working on a way to make it easier for the different agencies to use their frequencies on incidents. Developing an MOU and Cooperative Use Agreement in a standard format that would list the agencies that would be signatory to the document and will list the frequencies that will be available for use. It will delineate the geographic areas in which frequencies could be shared. Plan to have this for the next meeting. Agencies would have to go back for licensing for the specific frequencies.
Montana Rail Link has proposed to offer up their frequencies for use for first responders.
NORTH DAKOTA -- Steve Schumacher
North Dakota experienced a rather wet summer. Completed 170 prescribed burns for 25,000 acres and looking for 40,000 acres next year. No fires over 300 acres in the Zone (at the time of the NRCG meeting). The Dispatch Center is busy from May to October. Working on a Statewide cooperative agreement. There is a draft charter for the operation of the North Dakota Center out. Published the first mob guide for the Center and would appreciate any comments or updates.
Working with North Dakota Department of Health to keep smoke issues low intensity.
Will be looking for additional interagency and FTE funding for the Dispatch Center.
EASTERN MONTANA -- Tom Boatner
Working on a plan for use of type III teams.
Working on some prescribed burning training sessions.
The BLM is looking at changing from a large air tanker to a couple of smaller, single engine air tankers at Miles City.
Will be moving into new dispatch center in January 2000.
ACTION ITEM: Tom Boatner and Russ Davis will find a new Zone Coordinator for the Eastern Montana Zone.
SOUTH CENTRAL MONTANA -- Dave Hart
Fire season within the zone was relatively slow except for the Gallatin Forest. The Zone did meet burn objectives. The local mobilization board met several times and established engine rotations. That went fairly well. An issue has come up, however -- How do we deal with a resource that is still free lancing yet wants to be maintained on the Zone rotation list? The resource Dave is talking about has not been successful free lancing within the Geographic Area, but has been working outside the Geographic Area.
ACTION ITEM: The Business Committee needs to look at the EERA (Emergency Equipment Rental Agreement) to see if a statement can be included which will prevent the free lancing.
The Zone hosted an engine academy and had an engine competition. About 35 engines showed up. Most of the comments were supportive and the Zone may try another one next year.
The Big Sky Fire Plan is about done and will be ready for distribution soon.
CENTRAL MONTANA ZONE -- Dennis Milburn
The fire season was fairly normal for fire activity, but indices were showing very high readings. The Zone hosted four interagency management teams on incidents during the summer.
Had a local mob board and set up rotations. Cycled completely through the rotation at least three and maybe four times.
The Forest Service and BLM came pretty close to meeting the target prescribed burning acres for the Zone -- 25,000 acres. Shared resources across agency and Zone boundaries on some of the prescribed burns. The Lewis and Clark used the Montana Indian Firefighting program for some of their burns.
NORTHWEST MONTANA -- Fred Van Horn
Good season of support and cooperation within the Zone. The Zone Representative will change.
The National Park Service has a position at FIDC.
Normal fire season.
The FS completed a helibase at Hungry Horse and filled a helicopter manager -- P.J. Smith
The Flathead Forest and Glacier National Park are working on a joint fire plan and hope to have it operational in the next year or two.
SOUTHWEST MONTANA -- Tad Kolwicz
The Zone was active and bordering on panic stricken a few times this summer. Accomplished 18,000 acres of prescribed burning. Activated one type II team for the Bitterroot. Three type III teams were used.
The Zone had a big problem with human-caused fires.
Set up a mobilization board for engine rotations. Tad thinks the mobilization board needs to become better organized and will be working on that this winter.
The Zone organized Missoula Flight Following at the Aerial Fire Depot this summer. The flight following service was in operation for 132 days and 768 fire missions were handled.
Continuing to work on plans to co-locate SMICC and Missoula Dispatch Center at the Aerial Fire Depot.
Putting together a web page to disseminate information to cooperators.
NORTH IDAHO -- Byron Bonney
The Zone experienced a below average fire season. Got a lot of fire starts, but the fires didn't do anything. Resource benefit fires were not very active until about September. The Forest Service has completed about 16,000 acres of burning in North Idaho; the State will probably start burning this week.
The Forest Service had a big issue this year dealing with outfitters and resource benefit fires. Seems like every time a fire got active, there was an outfitter near the fire and they had to be moved out.
The Grangeville smokejumpers had a successful year experimenting with the Caravan for a jump ship. The aircraft can hold six smokejumpers.
The Forest Service has been working on an approval process for resource benefit fires in preparedness level IV. Don Black has prepared a draft and the Fire Use Committee is going to review it. The process will be presented back to NRCG.
Draft EIS on Salmon River Canyon will be released soon. Proposing to burn 250,000 acres over the next several years.
NOMINATIONS FOR S-520 -- Tom Boatner
The process developed by the Operations Committee a year ago is in place. This process should make sure individuals get training assignments to help them do well in class. In the fall before the S-520, we will get all trainees in one spot and talk to them about what to expect and give them tips on how to do well. Tom feels we are tracking well towards 2001.
FIRELINE SAFETY POSITION -- Rick Hafenfeld
Issue: Create and fill a temporary operational oriented fireline safety position for 1 year. This will allow NRCG to develop the roles, responsibilities and interagency coordination of this important function.
1. NRCG approve an interagency-sponsored fireline safety position beginning FY 2001. (In the interim (beginning about November 1, 1999) the Forest Service will provide an FTE and the Forest Service and BLM (and possibly other agencies) will fund a non-to-exceed 1 year position. During this year the position description, roles and responsibilities will be further refined.)
2. NRCG agencies jointly fund the Fireline Safety position beginning in FY 2001.
3. If the Forest Service cannot sponsor the FTE after the first year, NRCG agencies assume the FTE.
What is the cost? Probably $50,000 to $60,000 per year.
Who would supervise the position? Rick Hafenfeld would supervise the first year.
There is the perception that we keep adding and expanding interagency positions, but we don't have a grand plan to see how everything will fit together.
DECISION: NRCG approves the NTE Fireline Safety position for 1 year. By the spring NRCG meeting this person should be in place and a plan in the formulated stages as to how best utilize the skills of this person. At the fall NRCG meeting, NRCG will have to assess how the position functioned and determine the FTE and funding issues.
ACTION ITEM: Devote time at the spring NRCG meeting to discuss future strategic planning and come up with ideas as to where we are going with interagency positions. Rick Hafenfeld will provide an organizational chart of current positions. Prior to the spring meeting, the Zone Representatives need to provide a visionary document with future strategic planning issues developed -- where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years in the Zone in respect to interagency cooperation/positions.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES FOR 1998 FIRE AND MANAGEMENT REVIEW (JEMMETT REPORT) -- Rick Hafenfeld
A task force, chaired by Rick Hafenfeld, developed an action plan to deal with the issues raised in the 1998 Fire and Management Review. To date, some of the issues have been completed, some are on going, and some will be around for a while.
DECISION: NRCG approved the action plan which has been developed. The issues will need to be assigned to committees, groups, or individuals for completion. The progress of the action plan must be monitored.
ACTION ITEM: Rick Hafenfeld, Cathy Scofield, and Dennis Milburn will go through the report and make assignments to completing action items. Time will be devoted at general meetings or conference calls to monitor the progress of the action plan.
STRUCTURAL FIRE/LOCAL GOVERNMENT MEMBERSHIP -- Rick Hafenfeld
Issue: To formally address the issue of structure fire protection and suppression in wildland fire incidents and the role of structure fire departments in development of protection strategies and fiscal responsibilities in the urban interface.
1. Add one position to NRCG Board of Directors, as a voting member, that represents the Fire Chief's Associations or local government entities from Idaho, Montana and North Dakota.
2. Amend NRCG Charter to add one position, as a voting member, that represents the Fire Chief's Associations or local government entities as a Board Member/Director of the Northern Rockies Coordinating Group.
There is a concern that the size of the NRCG Board of Directors is getting to large.
What do we do if each State wants to be represented? Are there enough differences between States that one person cannot represent all three States?
The real issue here is that there is a perception among the Fire Chief's Associations that we make decisions affecting them without their involvement.
Another alternative would be to set up consultation committees and change the charter to reflect that NRCG will use these committees to review and comment on policies or positions before they are implemented. It might be prudent to have two such committees--one for the Fire Chiefs (from all three states) and one in anticipation of a better organized contractor's association.
DECISION: The NRCG Directors have not come to consensus on how best to deal with this issue. There is agreement that NRCG needs representation, the issue is how to get it done. Further discussion will be needed.
ACTION ITEM: Tim Murphy, Brian Shiplett, and Brian McManus will need to have a conference call with their state fire associations to see how they feel about this issue and how they think they should best be represented.
ALLOCATION OF RESOURCES -- Byron Bonney
The Allocation of Resources action plan has been out for several months. Randy Doman is wanting NRCG to give the Fire Use Committee guidance on what to do next?
In general, the NRCG Directors agree with the action plan. They would like the Fire Use Committee consider the following. When these issues are resolved, the action plan should be distributed to all Zones.
At what point do we trigger a MAC group?
It is confusing that there are three number 1 priorities--it could be confusing to local fire managers. Wording should be changed to say all fires receive equal prioritization consideration.
On page 6 -- add something about local fire agencies that have some fire protection responsibilities.
Page 11 -- there are a lot of social and political concerns -- it talks about impacts to user groups -- add something about public perception.
Action items need to be assigned to individuals or groups for completion.
NORTHERN ROCKIES FIRE MANAGEMENT USE TEAM -- Byron Bonney
The team did not get dispatched this year. The team was available all summer and did not get a call. When Randy Doman was unavailable (ICT for the team), the team would have been ordered. This is an issue -- can we expect a team to be on call all summer?
ACTION ITEM: As part of the Type I and II team selection process, include the FMUT also. Change the recruitment form to include the FMUT positions. Someone from the Fire Use Committee needs to be present when the teams are selected. Assigned to: Mike Plattes (for form revision and recruitment) and Randy Doman (Fire Use Team representation).
It seems that ultimately we want teams that can handle either wildfire or resource benefit fires. The problem we have now is that the current Type II teams have too many positions. A suggestion might be a more standardized Type III organization that works in either suppression or fire use.
FEDERAL WILD LAND FIRE POLICY ACTION PLAN -- Sandy Evenson
We spent considerable time developing the Geographic Area Action Plan response to the Federal Wildland Fire Policy Report. It appears from the national level that interest in the action plan has faded. Before we spend a whole lot more time on completing the action items, we need to find out the expectations nationally on completion of this project.
ACTION ITEM: Sandy Evenson will try to find out what the national expectations are for the Geographic Areas relative to completion of the action plan.
CLOSURES AND RESTRICTIONS -- Cathy Scofield
A wildland fire prevention team was in the Geographic Area in August 1999. Part of their charge was to review our closure and restriction policy, which they did. The team felt the restrictions were more effective as a public relations tool than as an enforcement tool. Some voice was given to the concern that the areas covered by restrictions may be too wide. Some areas not in need of the restrictions were lumped in with areas in need.
Another concern with the restriction process was the length of time it takes to rescind the restrictions.
We fall down badly in communicating between zones.
We make decisions on BI or ERC and that is probably sound. But, we aren't providing the right care and feeding of the model to actually make good decisions.
The team had some recommendations which will be analyzed by the Prevention Committee. The Prevention Committee will also take a look at the entire report to see if there are othergh issues that warrant further action.
Cathy stated the Zone Coordinators did a really good job this year. Maybe the mix of people we now have is better. Cathy also found out that a lot of people did not even know we have a document. (Note: The Closure and Restriction document is now on the NRCG web page -- under Decision Documents).
There was a lot of confusion about how to deal with wilderness areas.
ACTION ITEM: Jim Greene will work with Tim Murphy's office to put out a 1-sheet document that discusses what FEMA is and is not and how it works.
MONTANA LOGGING ASSOCIATION -- Tim Murphy
Patrick Hefernan from Montana Logging Association, and Scott Kuehn from Plum Creek attended the NRCG meeting to discuss ways to make their people available for wildfire.
Issue: The Montana Logging Association (MLA) was fairly frustrated this summer with the answers they received on what type of training is required for one of their dozer operators or fallers to be hired to work on a wildfire. They got multiple answers from different agencies or from the same agency. MLA is willing and wanting to work with NRCG to put on some additional training for their people so they can be available.
Tim Murphy explained to Patrick and Scott that the founding principle of ICS on initial attack is that we accept each other's standards. Once we cross the line past initial attack (hiring and putting people on an agency payroll) then the individuals have to meet that agency's standards. All agencies within the Northern Rockies Geographic Area have adopted the NWCG standard.
The problem time is always that timeframe between initial attack to where individuals are officially signed up.
Montana Logging Association is familiar with a course developed by Eric Kurtz. They would be willing to sponsor that course or something similar that will meet all qualifcations for their people. They would also issue a letter or card that sanctions the individuals have met the required training. There was some discussion regarding the content of the Kurtz course -- does it meet all agencies standards?
ACTION ITEM: Dave Hart, Chairman of the Training Committee, needs to contact Patrick or Scott. The Training Committee needs to assess the Kurtz course to see what modifications, if any, must be made to ensure the training put on by MLA meets all requirements--training, physical fitness, etc. The Training Committee needs to ensure there are qualified instructors to help put on the course.
ACTION ITEM: The May 24, 1999, "Operating Procedures for Hiring and Utilizing Fireline Specialists" needs to be redistributed again through agency channels.
On a side issue, Patrick mentioned an old law on the books -- a water law that states if water is removed from a stream, lake, etc., there is supposed to be a form filled out and submitted to the State of Montana Water Bureau -- even for emergency use. Tim Murphy will talk to the water folks and get their thoughts to see if there needs to be a legislative change.
MOBILIZATION BOARDS -- Tim Murphy
Annually the State Fire Chiefs Association has a meeting and as part of that meeting, they have a mobilization board meeting. This year's meeting was September 24. By zone, here is what they had to say:
Southwest Montana -- DNRC and FS are still going on all the fires. This is not right. So, there is some disconnect.
Central Montana -- No one from FS or DNRC participates in mob board meetings.
Eastern Montana -- Billings Fire Department questioned why Missoula Fire Department was on a fire in Roundup
Northwest Montana -- everything is going pretty good. Problem with one government official personality.
South Central Montana -- everything is great. Should be the model for the rest of the zones.
ACTION ITEM: It would be interesting to hear from the contractors how they felt the mobilization boards did. Mike Plattes will contact Marion Ryan and report back to NRCG.
LEAD PLANES -- Brian Shiplett
Brian stated the language in the Mobilization Guide relative to ordering lead planes was not correct. The intent is to order a lead plane if there is one on base -- not every time you launch an air tanker.
ACTION ITEM: Mike Plates will clean up the language in the Mobilization Guide for the spring update.
THE NEXT NRCG MEETING WILL BE IN COEUR D'ALENE, APRIL 19-20, 2000.
Cory Winnie assumes the role of NRCG Chair on January 1, 2000. Jerry Williams is the Vice Chair.
Prior to adjournment of the NRCG meeting, Tom Boatner gave a briefing of the Saddler Fire in Region 4 this past summer. You will be hearing more about this later. The review team made some very strict recommendations regarding the incident management team.