NRCG MEETING

ND ZONE REPORT

December 11, 2000

 

ND Zone Committee Representation:

 

NDFC Executive Committee Membership:

               Chairperson:                              Brian McManus - USFWS ND/SD Zone

               Vice Chair:                              Mike Santucci - ND Forest Service

               USDA-FS Rep.:                       Maure Sand  - USFS Dakota Prairie Grasslands

               USDI Rep.:                              Gary Kiramidjian  - NPS Theodore Roosevelt

               ND State Rep.:                         Scott Peterson  - NDG&F

               BIA/Tribal Rep.:                     Darrell Ausborn - BIA Aberdeen Area Office              

               RFD Rep,:                              Lois Hartman - ND Fireman’s Association

 

Fire Prevention Working Group:

 

Training Committee:

 

Interagency Communications Working Group:

              

NDC Board of Directors: (ND MAC Group)

NRCG Representation:

 

ND Zone Year in Review:

Most of the zone had a normal to wet year in terms of precipitation with the exception of the western quarter and in particular the SW corner, which experienced an extended drought similar to eastern Montana including a very active late summer and fall fire season.

The State also experienced an active spring fire season, which contributed significantly to the increased wildfire occurrence in the zone this year.  North Dakota experienced a very open late winter and early spring with little or no snow coverage from February on.  Temperatures remained near normal for this period, keeping fuels in a fully cured state without snow coverage for several months longer than normal.  This extended time of cured fuels and lack of snow coverage extended the spring fire season for two to three months longer than normal.  This was the main factor in the increase in numbers of fires and acres burned during the 2000 fire season.

 The zone experienced 1,101 wildfires totaling 74,161 acres for the year.  156 prescribed burns were conducted within the Zone totaling 27,138 acres.  Due to the burn moratorium after the Los Alamos incident and the extended and severe western fire season, nearly 50% of the prescribed fire season was lost this year in the zone.  It is estimated that an additional 15,000 to 20,000 acres would have been treated within the zone if these issues had not occurred.

Large fires occurred in the eastern and central portions of the state in the spring (Towner, Pembina and Bismarck fires), and in the western portions of the state in the fall (Painted Canyon and Blacktail Complex).

 

NDC:

The North Dakota Dispatch Center became a full zone center reporting directly to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center this year.  It took a bit for the NDC to get fully up to speed, but by the time the western fire season hit everything was working smoothly.  The NDC dispatched four times as many resources in 2000 than in any previous year.  Although we are a small zone in terms of resources, the NDC dispatched a total of 838 individuals, 103 engines, 30 IA modules, 290 overhead and numerous other resources in support of 81 incidents in 14 states.  North Dakota resources spent a total of 10,100 people days in support of fire incidents.  This equal one person working 40 hours per week for over 40 years!!   Approximately 65% of all resources were dispatched to the state of Montana.  Significant work came from within the Zone as well, with the first air attack, SEAT, and helicopter resources, first airspace closures, and many other firsts for the Zone occurring this year.  Although the overall dispatch numbers are small when compared to the business the NRC did during the year, it is a 400% increase over anything the ND Zone has seen in the past, and the work was completed with a dispatch center staff of three individuals.

During 2000, the NDC was staffed by a career-seasonal dispatcher, one seasonal dispatcher, and the Coordinator who performs these duties in addition to their regular duties and is not funded by the Dispatch Center.  Plans for the NDC for 2001 include the addition of a GS-9 Dispatch Center Manager and one additional permanent full time GS-7 dispatcher, bringing the dispatch staff to three and reducing the workload on the Coordinator.

 

Committees and Working Groups:

Several new Zone rep’s to the NRCG were filled this year as outlined above.  The Zone also established a Board of Directors for the NDC, a ND Zone MAC Group, and the new Communications Working Group which is tasked with improving interagency communications throughout the Zone.

The ND Representative to the NRCG Business Committee is still vacant, but we have plans to fill this position with the individual who will be hired as the NDC Manager in the future.

 

New Staffing:

With the increased fire budget many of the agencies in the Zone will see increasing staff’s in the coming year.  The USFS Dakota Prairie Grasslands is scheduled for some additional fire funded staffing, but it is unsure at this point what the increases will be.  The NPS will be getting two additional seasonal fire positions at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  The FWS will be getting 11 new permanent fire positions within the Zone including one new FMO and three new Prescribed Fire Specialist.  The BIA is also getting additional positions, but no firm numbers are available.  The ND State Forest Service is considering a new position to deal with improving the training and qualifications of VFD personnel.  This is still in the development stages and there are many hoops to jump through to get approval for the position.

 

Agreements:

The North Dakota state wide agreement was completed this year and is in place.  A new charter for the North Dakota Fire Council is circulating for comments with a deadline for all comments to be in by January 15, 2001.  Agreements for interagency funding support for the NDC were completed with the USFS and NPS, and agreements with the BLM and BIA are currently in the works.

 

ND ZONE ISSUES:

 

ND Zone Fire Cache:

The NDFC would like the ND Zone Fire Cache to be identified as a zone cache within the Northern Rockies area and included in the Northern Rockies Cache Management Plan for 2001.  The Zone has a real identified need for a 250 person cache and have been working towards fulfilling this need for the past three years with limited funding.  Currently the cache is stocked at approximately the 75 person level.  Addition of this cache into the NR Cache Management Plan would facilitate the development of this resource which has been identified by the NDFC as a critical need within the Zone.  The NDFC would like this issue brought up during the upcoming NRCG meeting in Missoula.

 Adopt a VFD program:

The ND Fire Council (NDFC) is developing an Adopt a VFD program to establish federal and state fire management agencies as mentors for local VFD departments in order to improve safety and efficiency of operations.  The NDFC has established a working group within the Training Committee to work with the ND Firefighter’s Association to provide wildland fire training to VFD personnel.  In February of this year this group will conduct two S-130/190 sessions at the State Fire School, targeting 80 VFD personnel for the courses.  The Adopt a VFD program has identified a total of 12 departments that the agencies will sponsor in 2001.  The idea is for each participating agency to offer S-130/190 training, additional instruction in wildland fire, discussions of the Point Fire, the ICS System and Unified Command Structure, and other topics to departments either during scheduled training events or at the departments weekly or monthly meeting.  Each participant will also work with their departments to acquire PPE for the active members of the department, work on establishing interagency communications protocols, increase interagency coordination, and do whatever they can to try to upgrade the qualifications and resources of these departments that are so important to suppression operations within the zone.

 A contest is currently on to establish a logo for the North Dakota Fire Council.  This is open to all individuals and a prize will be awarded to the winner.  Anyone with artistic talent or good ideas is asked to participate.

 The NDFC is working on streamlining the burn ban restriction process within the Zone.  At time this past year certain areas had as many as four sets of fire restrictions in place between federal and state agencies.

 The ND Zone has identified the need for a Type III team.  The NDFC will be meeting with federal and state agencies in southwestern ND, northwestern SD and SE Montana the week of January 22, 2001 to get the ball rolling.

 The ND Forest Service is implementing an Incident Qualifications System database to track local VFD personnel training and experience.  This system should be on-line prior to the spring fire season and will be a huge improvement for the Zone.  Currently there is no formal system in place for training local department personnel.  The ND Firefighters Association is working with the VFD’s to establish physical fitness and training standards for VFD departments.

ND State fire payment for suppression support is a critical issue currently in the zone.  The State has the ability to charge the Federal government for fire suppression support, but there is currently no mechanism in polace for the federal government to charge the state.  The ND Forest Service and USFS are taking the lead on resolving this issue and hope to have policy in place by the spring fire season.

 The NDFC is also working on increasing the coordination between the ND Division of Emergency Management (DEM), county emergency managers, the NDC and federal agencies.  Currently the county and state DEM folks are responsible for contacting the ND Forest Service to request assistance from the NDC.  DEM has not really been a player in the past, but ND Century Code requires the process for assistance to come from the local VFD through the county and state DEM to the NDFS and then on to the NDC.  This process has not worked well in the past, so attempts are being made to improve the coordination through meetings, training and other means.

 The issue of contractors arose during the 200 fire season.  The NDFC is working on establishing a process through which contractors will be hired within the Zone.  The ND Forest Service will be tasked with administering most of the contracts, but federal agencies will be involved with establishing contract for vendors in their local areas.  Hopefully we can get some of the VFD’s up to speed to enable their use on interagency details in the future.

SEAT Program.  The NDFC has identified a need for a SEAT program in the zone.  This issue will be worked on over the winter with the goal of establishing a minimum of two CWN SEAT contracts in western North Dakota prior to the spring fire season.

 North Dakota state will be getting a substantial increase in Volunteer Fire Assistance and State Fire Assistance program funding in 2001.  These monies have been earmarked to upgrade red card qualifications of VFD resources, address agreement needs with cooperators, provide additional training and PPE to VFD departments, and develop an engine strike team that will be interagency qualified and available for out of Zone details.