NORTHERN ROCKIES COORDINATING GROUP
September 28, 1998
Big Sky, Montana
OLD BUSINESS - Sandy Evenson
Reference Handout: Summary of Action items from April 21-22, 1998 for completed actions. Unfinished action items are:
Draft the NRCG policy on hiring falters for wildland incidents within the Northern Rockies. Publish the policy on NRCG letterhead and disseminate to Zones and overhead teams. Status: Business Committee has drafted the policy and it is ready for NRCG review.
The Fire Service Organization Technical Specialist position description should be formally included as a supplement to the Fireline Handbook or some other established document to ensure it does not become lost. Status: Business Committee has not met yet. Still to be done.
Electronic communications were assigned to the voice and data communication task group. There are still problems and issues occurring within the Geographic Area. Brian Shiplett will convey the concerns of NRCG to the task group and ask them for reconunendations at the fall NRCG meeting. Status: Not done. Deferred to Spring 1999 meeting.
Get actual Northern Training Center cost/share numbers for NRCG Directors for review. What affect will there be on local governents? What is the billing schedule? Status: Not done.
The Incident Medical Specialist (IMS) issue needs to be revisited. NRCG has made the decision the IMS program needs to be interagency in order to utilize resources available in all agencies. Status: Operations Committee discussed at May 1998 meeting. Recommendation is to continue with the IMS program in its current format at this time. Phil Perkins and Steve Gauger will work with Paul Fieldhouse and Bobby Golden to look at the possibility of 4-person teams, configurations, using local personnel. Timeframe is to be ready with new proposals for FY 99 fire season.
The Central Montana Zone feels they are too big. Discuss possible Zone boundary configurations with the South Central Zone. Report back to NRCG following negotiations. Status: Zone has decided to remain as they are currently configured. Action completed.
Plan to hold a line officer meeting for 1 -day during the week of April 12-16, 1999. Consider holding the meeting in Coeur d'Alene or Spokane for easier access. Status: Yet to be done.
BUSINESS COMMITTEE -Bill Caldwell
Reference Handout: Northem Rockies Fire Business Management Committee
OPERATIONS COMMITTEE -Phil Perkins
Reference Handout: Operations Committee Report, September 28, 1998
The Operations Committee met in February and May, 1998. Accomplishments include:
Ongoing work is continuing on:
FIRE USE - Julie Shea
Reference Handout: Fire Use Sub-Committee Report, 9/28/98
The Fire Use committee is just getting started. Randy Doman has been selected as the chair of the committee. The committee plans to focus on:
The committee was not represented. Will be having a fall meeting.
TASK FORCE REPORT
VOICE AND DATA COMMUNICATION TASK FORCE
This group does not have a chairperson and has resisted formal organization. Although we may make light of this, the group has been chartered with some fairly significant issues.
May need to appoint a management person for the chairman. Need to also look at the management implications.
To a certain extent many of the issues we will be facing are beyond the Geographic Area.
ACTION ITEM: THE VOICE AND DATA TASK FORCE NEEDS TO IDENTIFY (BY AGENCY POSSIBLY) THE ISSUES AND GROUPS/AGENCIES THAT WELL 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. ASSIGNED TO: VOICE AND DATA TASK FORCE.
NORTH IDAHO - Mark Vore
NORTHWEST MONTANA - Fred Van Hom
SOUTHWEST MONTANA ZONE - Mike Kopitzke
CENTRAL MONTANA ZONE -- Steve Zachry
SOUTHCENTRAL MONTANA ZONE - Bill Breedlove
EASTERN MONTANA ZONE - Jerry Chapman
Tom Harbour noted an interesting event that happened this year. We are getting good comments back on type II teams. Maybe one of the keys is that we didn't put out way more crews than we probably have the capability to do. Whatever it is that we did, it worked well. It is important for us to remember as we go forward.
NORTH DAKOTA ZONE -- Phil Street
AD/RETIREE ISSUE - Jerry Williams
Reference Handouts: Position Paper prepared by Emmy Ibison
Fax from Phoenix Area Office Forestry re: AD's on fire teams
We got into an issue this year where we had an AD employee act as an IC on a Forest Service incident. The National MAC group had previously sent out a recommendation that AD's not be used for Command or General Staff on Incident Management Teams. The issues we need to discuss have to do with liability --jurisdictional and individual. The other issue has to do with compliance of established direction.
We have gone to our Office of General Council people and have asked for their opinion. They are telling us if we ask the question, we may get an answer we have difficulty accepting. Jerry has not asked for a formal written opinion at this point.
There is also an OPM issue hanging out. The issue pertains to employees who signed agreements to take the buyout and their reemployment during fire season. The appearance is the agencies and retired employees have found ways to circumvent the system and the employees may be at risk to repay their buyout money. OPM has been making noise they are going to start going back and checking on those.
Fundamentally we are finding a way to make do and it really masks a fundamental workforce program. We are using AD's to get by but we are making do. We really don't have a strategy when we run out of the AD option.
The liability issue is something we should not bury our heads in the sand about.
Equally important is that we need to have a system in place that ensures competency and familiarity and qualifications are in place for AD's and retirees.
Tim Murphy stated we are dealing with two separate issues:
Mike Plattes -- if we would have followed the Northern Rockies Mob Guide it states that if the IC is not available, the team stands down. That is the national direction also. The East Zone has a different interpretation. -
This issue is really a workforce issue - who is in the pipeline? How long can we depend on AD's and retirees?
ACTION ITEM: ASK EMMY IBISON TO WORK WITH HER COUNTERPARTS FROM OTHER AGENCIES WITHIN THE GEOGRAPHIC AREA TO FINISH THE POSITION PAPER SHE HAS BEGUN. IDENTIFY POLICIES OR LEGAL AUTHORITIES WHICH MAY PRECLUDE US FROM PUTTING PEOPLE IN CERTAIN POSITIONS AND IDENTIFY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AGENCIES IF THEY EXIST. IF WE DO CONTINUE TO HIRE AD'S AND RETIREES, FIND OUT WAYS TO BRING THESE PEOPLE ON AND AFFORD THEM ALL THE PROTECTIONS THEY NEED.
ACTION ITEM: LOOK AT THE AD/RETIREE ISSUE FROM THE STANDPOINT OF WHO CERTIFIES THEY ARE QUALIFIED AND WHO SIGNS AND MAINTAINS THEIR RED CARD QUALIFICATIONS. HOW LONG DO WE KEEP HIRING FOLKS AND ASSURE OURSELVES THEY ARE STILL COMPETENT FOR THE JOB? SHOULD THERE BE REFRESHER TRAINING ANNUALLY, AND IF SO, HOW MUCH AND WHAT TOPICS SHOULD BE INCLUDED? ASSIGNED TO: TRAINING COMMITTEE
1998 FIRE AND MANAGEMENT REVIEW FOR THE NORTHERN ROCKIES
COORDINATING GROUP - Coy Jemmett
Reference Handout: 1998 Fire and Management Review for the Northern Rockies Coordinating Group
NRCG commissioned a review of fire suppression actions taken during the 1998 fire season within the context of the Federal Wildland Fire Policy. Coy was appointed team leader and the team had the opportunity to visit several incidents while conducting the review.
Overview: the policy is alive and well. Most folks did not see it as a big change--there are some differences--but not really a big change. There is not a clear understanding, appreciation, or implementation of a joint effort on state and federal policies. State policies are not understood by the majority of the people. There is a need for a more common understanding of the policies.
The following areas should have some attention prior to the 1999 fire season:
Policy -- there is not a good understanding, particularly among federal folks of state fire management policies. The policy is probably least understood at the local levels-- communities, subdivisions, etc.
Structural protection -- who protects what, where, and who will pay the bill? Wherever structures were involved, any amount of resources that could be mobilized were. Private landowners think structural protection means you are going to put the fire out in their house and bam. The greatest confusion exists at the very local level. There is also concern at the county/community level with their ability to respond.
Fire use - looking at tremendous growth. There is a strong desire and a willingness to want to do that and there is evidence they are. There is a tremendous desire but we lack some of the tools to do it.
Cooperation -- alive and well.
Safety -- there is no question that safety is number I in the Federal Wildland Fire Policy and it suggests that firefighter and public safety are on equal planes. They are equally important. We saw that happening in the incidents we visited. The thought to consider -- we equip our firefighters, train our firefighters, refresher our firefighters, but what do we do when we say public safety is important. What is our role to help in public safety issues?
The review was a good step forward for NRCG. We have been talking about interagency/interdisciplinary reviews in 1994 and 1996 and we have taken the action to get it done.
ACTION ITEM: NRCG NEEDS TO RECOGNIZE THE MEMBERS OF THE REVIEW TEAM FOR A JOB WELL DONE. ASSIGNED TO: SANDY EVENSON
ACTION ITEM: NRCG DIRECTORS NEED TO REVIEW THE REPORT PRESENTED BY COY JEMMETT. ON A FUTURE CONFERENCE CALL, NRCG WILL APPOINT A GROUP TO DEVELOP AN ACTION PLAN AND FIGURE OUT A WAY TO DISTRIBUTE THE REPORT ACROSS THE GEOGRAPHIC AREA. ASSIGNED TO: NRCG BOARD OF DIRECTORS. DUE DATE: FEBRUARY 1999 (TO TIE BACK TO MACO).
SOUTHWEST MONTANA ZONE DISPATCH ORGANIZATION REVIEW
- Cyndie Hogg
Reference Handout: Southwest Montana Zone Dispatch Organization Review
At the request of NRCG, a review team was assembled to reexamine and validate recommendations made in the 1996 Geographic Area Dispatch/Coordination Task Force Review. The team had the opportunity to visit six initial attack dispatch centers and the southwest Montana Zone Dispatch Center. Following are recommendations and thoughts from the review team:
Recommendations: The five initial attack dispatch centers, specifically Plains, Ronan, Anaconda, Clearwater and Lincoln, remain as is. The review team felt they use the three tiered system as Initial Attack Centers. All support goes directly from the incident to the SDC. This center handles all expanded dispatch operations for these IAC.
Continue to look at opportunities for consolidation and streamlining the dispatch ordering channels.
These units would remain in the SW Montana Zone and participate in the other zone activities including training coordination, daily situation reporting and intelligence dissemination.
The Bitterroot NF Initial Attack Dispatch Center should remain as is. They can handle initial attack and large fire support. They should continue to order initial attack resources direct from their neighbors and continue to expand to provide support for their Type 1 and 2 incidents. The BRF expanded should order direct to NRCC and not through SDC. BRF should remain in the SW Montana Zone and participate with the other zone activities including training coordination, daily situation reporting and intelligence dissemination.
Recommendation:The Missoula Dispatch Center and the Southwest Montana Zone Dispatch Center should combine into one dispatch center. This would not be a colocation but would be integrated into one dispatch center. Staffing from both dispatch centers would be available to assist one another during emerging fire situations until outside help could arrive. If the two centers combine, the review team recommends this center dispatch the initial attack resources in Missoula, specifically the airtankers and smokejumpers currently dispatched by NRCC. This combination would require larger facilities. The review team suggests the Aerial Fire Depot.
Recommendation: The NRCG discuss pros and cons of combining 911 and IAC with the California and Great Basin Coordinating Groups. Both these geographic areas have dispatch centers with combined IA and 91 1.
Recommendation: The review team does not recommend NRCC be combined with any other dispatch center in Missoula. The review team does agree with the progress NRCC has made implementing the recommendations from the 1996 task force review. The State of Montana is fully integrated into the center operations. NRCG needs to proceed with the advertisement and hiring of the Assistant Center Manager. The review team agrees with the proposal that all agencies should have a role in the oversight of NRCC and that this process be formalized.
If the decision to move the initial attack resources to a combined NMC/SDC is agreed, the NRCC could move to another location less disruptive than their current location.
INITIAL ATTACK OFFICES
Recommendation: Continue to look at opportunities for consolidation. Afterjoining the Missoula Dispatch Center with Southwest Montana Zone Dispatch Center, other combinations could take place.
FUNDING OF DISPATCH OPERATIONS
Recommendations: The review team suggests that the cost share methodology is adequate for all parties concerned. This was not an issue for the centers reviewed.
The review team suggests for determining volume of business the NRCG contacts the Rocky Mountain Coordinating Group (RMCG). The RMCG has a useful volume of business model that would be applicable for Northern Rockies Area.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT RESOURCES
Recommendation: SDC along with the county coordinators and each IAC should collectively develop a system of dispatching, tracking and reporting of the local government resources. The review team suggests only one system for off zone dispatch, either using the IAC or a county Duty Officer.
If not already occurring, annual preseason meetings should be scheduled to discuss issues and procedures.
ISSUES AND CONCERNS NOT PART OF THE TASK
Recommendation: The Initial Attack dispatch centers need to funnel resource availability and other intelligence to the zone dispatch centers. The zone dispatch centers need to consolidate this information and funnel it back to the Initial Attack dispatch centers.
Recommendation: Efforts to provide good radio coverage for all IA areas should be a priority. Extra radio frequencies would allow air to ground communications to be separate from tactical.
ZONE DISPATCH CENTERS
Recommendation: Pursue a volume of business model for all dispatch centers in the Northern Rockies. Continue to evaluate combining dispatch centers including zone dispatch centers to equalize the distribution of work throughout the Northern Rockies Area.
DISPATCH CENTER OPERATIONS GUIDE, DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY
Recommendation: Annual preparedness visits should verify the presence and use of operations guides. Dispatchers should be empowered to move resources with a signed Delegation of Authority.
Recommendation: NRCG discuss the impacts of year round prescribed fire and staffing by seasonal dispatchers.
NRCG DISCUSSION FOLLOWING CYNDIE'S PRESENTATION:
ACTION ITEM: SOUTHWEST MONTANA ZONE (LINE OFFICERS AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS) WILL MEET TO DISCUSS THE REVIEW AND THE PROPOSED RECOMMENDATIONS. THEY WILL GET BACK TO NRCG WITH A POSITION PAPERIDENTIFYING ACTIONS THEY CAN ACCEPT AND THOSE THEY CANNOT (IF THERE ARE ANY). ASSIGNED TO: SOUTHWEST MONTANA ZONE.
TRAINING COMMITTEE -Steve Holden
Handout: Suppression Workforce Requirements Analysis Process (Training Needs Analysis)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND COOPERATOR ENGINES
Reference Handout: September 22, 1998, draft letter to Gasvoda, Waldron, Mason, Verdi, and Waters
The above-mentioned Fire Chief's have written a letter to NRCG expressing dissatisfaction with the number of local fire department engines that are dispatched. The Northwest Contract Firefighters Association has also expressed dissatisfaction
The State of Montana prepared a draft letter to the Fire Chief s. The draft letter contains many facts and figures for dispatches within the Southwest Montana Zone. The problem goes beyond just the Southwest Montana Zone.
ACTION ITEM: DAN O'BRIEN WILL PREPARE A REPLY TO THE FIRE CHIEF'S. THE LETTER WILL STATE THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES NEED TO WORK THROUGH THEIR DISPATCH CENTERS SO THEY FULLY UNDERSTAND HOW THE DISPATCH SYSTEM WORKS AND TO AGREE ON DISPATCH PROCEDURES. ASSIGNED TO: DAN O'BRIEN
FAREWELL TO DAN O'BRIEN AND JOHN PRITCHARD
This is Dan and John's last NRCG meeting. Both of them will be retiring in January 1999. Dan and John were presented with knives from the NRCG Directors. For his swan song, John read a poem he had written to the NRCG Directors. Dan did not read a poem.