December 11-12, 2000
OPENING REMARKS -- Don Artley, Montana State Forester
What worked well:
1. Safety was outstanding
2. Prevention teams were well received and did a lot of good work
3. Incident command system
What didn’t work well:
1. Closures and restrictions: Is NRCG and its members going to follow guidelines or not? How do we resolve differences in opinion?
2. Signing up and dispatching of local equipment. How do we identify needs, train people, inspect them, and get them into the system? How do we communicate realistic expectations to people who have equipment that they may get work?
3. Use of military (National Guard) aviation resources. NWCG is going to be working on this through a task force.
Patrick Heffernan (Montana Logging Association-MLA) asked if NRCG dealt with suppression tactics. There seems to be a real knowledge gap on what equipment could do and how it could buy fireline. Jerry Williams stated the MAC group became familiar over the summer with several heavy equipment issues also – such as helicopter bucket work in critical fish spawning areas. The best place for us to reconcile some of these things is through agency administrators (WFSA) or through the Operations Committee. Patrick and Jack Kirkendall need to talk to each other.
OPENING REMARKS --Ron Larsen, Deputy Regional Forester (FS)
At the national level there are some things that need to be looked at, such as:
2. Public Affairs Operations/use of web sites
3. Technology advances
One of the biggest challenges we face is the workforce. We must work to make sure we have the qualified people available to replace those that will be retiring.
Residual effects of the fires – in the Forest Service we are looking at our plans for working in the black and in the green for the future (National Fire Plan).
OPENING REMARKS -- Jerry Williams (FS)
We will be talking about a lot of operational things we need to strengthen next summer – there are soft spots, but keep in mind that this Geographic Area has received a lot of compliments for handling the largest mobilization in history. A lot of issues converged on us this year. Workforce became a real problem. Forest practices became a big issue (industry versus environmentalists). The interface—why are we spending all this money and effort protecting people who choose to build their houses in those areas. Forest health—what has happened after 70 to 100 years of fire exclusion.
We have a difficult time in decentralized organizations as we move between preparedness levels where management is consensus oriented – we have a difficult time making that transition. Coordination and communication underpins everything we are about.
Russ Davis will be retiring in March 2001. He was presented with a knife in appreciation of his many years of service to NRCG.
Northern Idaho – Byron Bonney
Tried to stick really hard to the drawdown plan in North Idaho Zone. Tried to keep as many people on board and in place to manage the situation as they could.
Keeping initial attack as top priority by the NR MAC was more than lip service. The Zone was able to get initial resources during the summer. Did not get all they wanted, but got a substantial amount.
Communications worked well within the Zone. Had conference calls daily and talked about resources, etc. One area that fell down a bit was the SALMAC which was the MAC group between the Forests in Region 1 and 4 along the Salmon River Corridor. It was hard to bring that group together because of the shear amount of activity occurring in the Salmon River Corridor. Will be thinking about setting it up earlier and establishing better working relationship.
Northwest Montana – Ted Mead
NW Montana Zone met November 29. (The notes of this meeting are posted on the NRCG web page). Continue to struggle with representation from counties.
Flathead County has significant concerns about a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities of country commissioners and area commands. (A lot of this might be education problems).
Within Flathead County there is a move whereby they are building a system independent of the rest of the wildland community to address areas not within a fire district and fire training needs. They are working with the Fire Service training school to develop training based on NFPA 1051. What are we going to honor as equivalencies (question for NRCG training committee)?
Trying to solve some of the questions relative to paying for initial attack for individual actions.
Early on DNRC, Flathead, and Kootenai NF’s worked together to request severity dollars for various resources. The process worked well.
The Zone MAC group worked very well. The number one success within the MAC group was the coordination and communication surrounding closures and restrictions. Again, some concern on county participation.
Communication within the Zone – Ted gave it a B. Would like better participation from the counties. Were able to include large private landowners such as Plum Creek.
Communications with NR MAC was strong and effective.
Communications between surrounding zones were probably not as effective, but through the day it was only possible to do so much.
Glacier Park is still working with Flathead Forest on a joint Fire Management Plan.
Kootenai NF was the busiest part of the Zone. They felt the MAC group was much more effective this year than in the past. Dropped almost 250,000 gallons of retardant from SEAT.
Concerns about NR MAC information getting to dispatch organizations.
Central Montana Zone – Greg Morris
The handout prepared for the NRCG meeting has notes and issues papers from the Area Command.
Priority setting – was loud and clear and helpful.
Jim Greene and FEMA were wonderful. DES and FEMA thing went very well.
Had a difficult time with aviation and priority setting. Pumped around three loads shy of a million gallons. Sharing of aviation resources between zones and area command got very confusing.
Communication between zones was good and bad. Once area command was in place, there was not a lot of communication between zones.
Central Montana Zone is probably too large or too complex or has too many members for when it gets busy.
Forest Service representative within the Zone was pretty nonexistent. Involved on teams or in suppression responsibilities.
County and how they play in the Zone is confusing when the area command came into place. Recommend the team have a person to do this.
Did not have the best coordination and communication with the NR MAC – too many independent decisions being made. When NR MAC made the decision to put the area command in place the NR group should have sent representatives over to the briefing meeting.
Had a problem not knowing what the Zone MAC group was to do once the area command got in place.
Continues to be a problem with closures and restrictions. Three additional counties were thrown into the zone for closures and restrictions.
Southwest Montana – Scott Waldron
Zone MAC met regularly and often and did a lot of good work. Decided safety would not be compromised at any cost. It paid off.
Real pleased about the fire prevention team. Goal was to attach local representatives to the team to create qualified individuals for future use for local, state and federal agencies and to be able to activate a team locally without having to go to the national level. The Tribe was especially happy about the prevention work that occurred on Tribal lands.
Zone information was up and running early on.
Established a staging area that worked early on that prevented a number of fires from going project.
Local initial attack forces were activated – task forces were scattered throughout the area. Had contractor participation also.
Concerns that communications with NR MAC and the Zone MAC were challenged at times. Ended the year on a down note with staging area issue.
Concerns about zone changing training standards
Struggled at times with resources that were ordered by the MAC and sent to the zones – like the wind task forces.
Lacking clear direction on the authority and roles of Zone MAC’s and area commands.
Restrictions were challenging.
At the county level, we did fairly well. Scott took on the role to call the counties and see what they had for resources and see what they needed.
Eastern Zone – Tom Boatner
The Zone is large. Most of the problems were the result of being a large zone, being far away and not having a lot of people. There is a feeling they are at the end of the food chain. Quite often the values at risk in eastern Montana are lessor.
Saw a disconnect between the official dispatch system and the “unofficial” dispatch system.
Protection agreement issues – in places where BLM protects ground for the FS, there are always issues. Rewriting the 6-party agreement may help in this.
Coordination is sometimes difficult in Eastern Montana because there are three agencies that have units that are split between the Central Zone and Eastern Montana Zone. Creates problems with closures and restrictions and in the dispatch arena.
Beartooth District of the Custer is supported on extended attack fires out of Bozeman. Need to iron out who deals with large fire support.
South Central Montana – Rick Seidlizc
Communications seem to be working pretty well. Private contractor issues – lots of complaints about not getting calls.
Extensive training calendar.
Big Sky fire plan.
Poor coordination with out-of-Region teams.
NORTH DAKOTA – Mike Santucci
Completed first year as a zone dispatch center. Had many successes and some failures. Truly working toward interagency cooperation.
The big sucking sound they heard to the west of them was four times the amount of dispatches than they have ever had in their history. Felt they were able to answer the call, but it showed a huge void in the capabilities. Have a huge contingent of volunteer fire departments that are not red carded. This is a big issue. Zone will be working on making these resources more available.
Having an upward trend in fire starts and number of acres burned. Will be watching this.
Bitterroot – Jack Kirkendall
Functioned as an independent dispatch center during the 2000 fire season. Transitioned in first team July 14 and transitioned out last team on October 22.
Good attention from the NR MAC and NRCC. Without NR MAC’s support of initial attack as number one priority, feels the Bitterroot would have been in considerably worse shape. Some of the non-traditional resources were recognized, obtained, and helpful.
Right after the first of August found they had a difficult time trying to share resources across Regional boundaries (Salmon NF). There are financial issues that are also wrapped up in all of this.
Wind event task force – really well thought out process, but maybe a little slow in happening. Perhaps Operations Committee needs to take a look at expanding this idea.
Coordinated very close with their county. Developed a county-wide initial attack agreement through the Area Command.
Coordination with Area Command was excellent and they coordinated well with NR MAC.
Fire Prevention Team worked out real well.
Summary – Jerry Williams
It is important to reiterate this Geographic Area did exceptionally well with the challenge/threat that no one in their wildest dreams every thought of. Everyone went home and in a relative sense there was minimal damage to property.
I appreciate the constructive criticisms we have heard. I am anxious to reconcile the differences between us. We have a lot of moving parts at Planning Level 5. Things are changing almost exponentially—into a more command mode. Regardless of right or wrong, the thing to think about is developing something of a matrix that talks about how roles and responsibilities change as we move through all the different preparedness levels. Much of what we did this summer was writing this book, but we still have to write the book. Specifically – what are the roles and responsibilities of the national MAC/regional MAC/zone MAC? What is the role of the counties? Area Commands?
Where does the National Guard fit in?
Operations Committee – Jack Kirkendall
Eastern Area Coordinating Group is asking the Northern Rockies if we are interested in co-staffing a type II team. It might be as simple as telling them to have people apply for our teams. The decision before the NRCG board is to extend a hand and invite them to apply for positions on our teams.
Team Configuration: The Operations Committee recommends NRCG adopt four trainees as the operating standard for long teams.
Aviation Positions (Paul Linse) (see NRCG web page for details): The Operations Group proposes to NRCG that a system similar to identifying people to go to S-520 be established to recruit, train, mentor, track and certify personnel in the AOBD, ASGS, ATGS, and HEB1/2 positions. For years the Geographic Area has been chronically short in aviation positions. The proposal formalizes an Incident Aviation Advisory Group and outlines ways to help bring individuals into the aviation positions.
· DECISION: The Northern Rockies Coordinating Group accepts the proposal of the Operations Committee to help bring more individuals into the various aviation programs. The Advisory Committee needs to include State and eastern Montana representation. Ensure Human Resources is tied into screening efforts.
BUSINESS COMMITTEE – Emmy Ibison
Incident service and supply plan – Fire business management handbook states all units should have one. Not sure we have met this requirement within the Geographic Area.
We need to simplify and look at new ways to do Incident Business Management.
Equipment Rates: proposing to take more of the rates we currently have and make them daily rates. The details of how to calculate this have not been worked out yet. Brian Shiplett asked the Business Committee to make it very, very clear as to what a “day” is. It has to be visible to the contractors.
The Program of Work for the Business Committee for 2001 was approved.
Direct ordering – incidents to the Northern Rockies Cache. The Business Committee will develop the plan and bring back to NRCG.
Scott Waldron has some water tender issues that he will be working with the Operations Committee on.
PREVENTION COMMITTEE -- DC Haas
Handout: announcement for Prevention workshop that will be held in Whitefish in 2001. Committee would like the NRCG Board to make some comments on Tuesday morning, April 24.
Prevention Training: The Prevention and Education Committee feels fire prevention is a job that everyone should do, and with training, many not involved in suppression can help with. This will require developing training packages to educate those people who are not primaries in fire prevention programs. The Prevention and Education Committee recommends NRCG endorse the following:
1. An introductory fire prevention unit be added to basic guard school. This would involve a 30-to 60-minute addition to the 130/190 curriculum.
2. The creation of a curriculum in prevention to bring the level of training above the basic level. This would involve the creation of 200-300 level training at the national level.
Restrictions and closures: On January 22, the Prevention Committee plans to discuss the problems encountered. Agency administrators want to play a role. How should the committee proceed?
Discussion: Tim Murphy – NRCG needs to make a commitment as to whether or not we are going to have a closure/restriction process? Are all agencies in or out? With that said, and assuming we agree to have one, then the Prevention Committee would have a role.
FIRE USE COMMITTEE – Randy Doman
Did put together a FMUT that was dispatched this summer. The FMUT was also converted to a type II team and managed a couple of different fires this summer. The team was successful this year. There is a recruitment out right now for some positions on the FMUT. Desperately needing an IC to take over this team.
The intent of the task force was to take a look at the perennial problem of contractor issues—training, qualifications and certification for non-NRCG member entities.
Patrick Heffernan – would like a quick snapshot of what the current training situation is. How are other contractors doing it? Mike Kopitzke stated Northwest Contracting Association is able to train and certify individuals. There are not very many other avenues in our area. The University of Montana also does some training.
The task force proposed that Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) be established with qualified public and private trainers, which clearly outline responsibilities and requirements for training and oversight.
There is still a lot of confusion from buying teams and even incident management teams regarding required training for contract loggers.
Contractors experienced a lot of frustration when their equipment was signed up and then split up a bunch of different ways.
The a/b/c faller categories are confusing for MLA
Patrick had some specific questions regarding the National Fire Plan. If there is a need to hire additional suppression resources, is there a source of funding to make this happen?
The National Fire Plan encompasses three major themes:
Anything above that has been handled by emergency fire monies and that is not a part of the National Fire Plan. At this point we are not sure if any of this part will be changed.
Scott Kuehn handed out a table that outlined the physical fitness test, training requirements and PPE requirements for contractors. Scott indicated he found this table particularly helpful.
At the end of the year, Byron Bonney (North Idaho Zone Coordinator) will be retiring. NRCG wants to thank Byron for all of his contributions over the years. Byron’s professionalism, his demeanor and his willingness to work through issues is a model for us all .
Phil Street has tentative approval to add a full time equivalent (FTE) within the F&WL (to be stationed Missoula) for a ground safety position. The FS also has a position tentatively identified under the new National Fire Plan.
Paul Chamberlin has filled the position for a year. Paul gave a rough estimate of the potential interagency budget breakdown.
The area that probably caused the most confusion last fire season was the roles and responsibilities between the various entities such as National/Regional/Zone MACs, area commands, county commissioners, etc. There was general consensus this is an item which definitely needs attention.
· ACTION ITEM 2000-15.—A task group will be assembled to prepare a matrix that outlines how all the various entities work together and what changes occur at what preparedness level. Tim Murphy and Jerry Williams will co-chair the task group. Members will include: Charlie Hanson (DES), Paul Mock (FS), a line officer (Jack Kirkendall will ask Rodd Richardson), an agency representative from Central Montana (Greg Morris will try to find someone), a representative from Southwest Montana Zone (Scott Waldron will find someone), and atribal representative (Cory Winnie will check on availability of Dennis DuPuis). Mike Plattes and Rick Hafenfeld will serve as technical specialists.
SUGGESTION: At next years’ country fire wardens meeting, NRCG needs to be prepared to talk about some of the issues we are dealing with . It is a good place for us to ask what they think.
There has been talk that there is going to be a national standard that says there will be two meteorologists at each Geographic Area. Due to the unique relationship we have with the National Weather Service, this may not be applicable to this Geographic Area. This is an area we should keep our eye on. Before we take the step, we need to have a clear picture of what the consequences are across the whole area. In doing the right thing over here, we may do the wrong thing over there. One of the concerns is where these new meteorologists would come from. Would we be impacting the Weather Service?
NWCG has asked the ISOWT working team for recommendations. No new direction has been issued at this time.
1. firefighting – Congress is giving us the money to field 100 percent of mel (most efficient level)
2. rehab and restoration for burned over area
3. hazardous fuels reduction – starting to get serious about getting more proactive about thinning and prescribed burning
4. community assistance – providing the funds necessary to boost capabilities with local fire departments
There is a lot of anxiety across the country. The thing that will be coming our way will be our commitment to strengthen zone capabilities, geographic area capabilities and the role of the agency administrators.
Tribes are an integral part of this and must be incorporated and made an integral part of all of this.
Some areas that come to mind are:
We are pretty fortunate in our GA because we have been working on a lot of these areas. The NRCG board can play a real role in helping to facilitate a lot of these areas. It is going to be crucial for Zones to be the ones to help facilitate those zone issues and translating down to local levels. NRCG working committees are already working on a lot of these issues.
What role does or should NRCG play in this and what are the opportunities to work together?
Is the protection issue in the 6-party agreement for 2005 on the back burner or off the stove? Cathy Scofield said at this time there has been no agreements to make any changes to what has been previously agreed to. There will be time for everyone to review the new agreement.
Jerry Williams said there was an effort to modify the Federal Wildland Fire Policy and one of the issues is the role of the protection agencies. Not sure what that change will be yet.
Tim Murphy stated they have a concern they will loose a bunch of their fire forces to the feds. Going into the legislature to try to get equitable pay for State employees.
Concern about relations with states—timeframes for completing grants, time to do the work, people to do the work, relationships with locals.
SUGGESTION: Tom Boatner suggested that maybe after the new Governor is in place, would it be realistic to ask Don Artley to schedule a meeting with her to talk about this National Fire Plan and what the impacts and implications are for the State, counties, etc. Tim Murphy said it might be worth thinking about.
Closures and Restrictions: The “in or out” issue is:
a. do we need restrictions and closures
b. are they mandatory or just suggested
Eastern Great Basin Coordination: There was concern about coordination between the Eastern Great Basin Coordination Group and the Northern Rockies last year. How do we want to resolve the issues?
Options to consider might be:
· Establish a liaison between the two GAC’s to maintain open communications.
· In the roles and responsibilities matrix, establish a trigger point to coordinate with other GAC’s
· ACTION ITEM 2000-19: Brian Shiplett will be attending the Eastern Great Basin GAC meeting soon. We will ask for their input on how to resolve some of our issues. Brian will also approach them on meeting in Whitefish in April.
Beartooth District Issue: When there is a large fire, there is and has been major confusion as to which dispatch center should provide large fire support – Gallatin or Billings. Tom Boatner will monitor the situation. If large fire support for fires on the Beartooth were put into the Billings Dispatch Center, it would clean up some things for the State of Montana.
This will be an agenda item for the April NRCG meeting if not resolved before then.
National Guard: The Montana National Guard would like to come up with a general goal that they could be generally self sufficient if they are requested for fire. They would like to train 5 crews (100 firefighters), about six helicopter managers and some agency reps. The National Guard has also expressed interest in red carding these individuals.
Team Jackets: Last year NRCG agreed to look into purchasing jackets for type I and II team members. Polarfleece vests were given to all type I and II team members at the end of this fire season to recognize their contributions to an outstanding safe season.