NRCG Northwest Montana Zone Meeting


Thursday December 13, 2001 @ 1000

Flathead National Forest Supervisor’s Office



Atendees: Cathy Calloway, Charlie Webster, Ted Mead, Fred VanHorn, Alan Marble, Gary Mahugh, Neil Nelson, Mark Romey, Bill Caldwell, Don Black, Jean Helps


Follow-up items are highlighted in the notes below.


First order of business was to update the Zone representatives and fill vacancies in our committee representatives to the broader NRCG committees. Cathy agreed to stay on as chair thru Fall of 2002.  Marcy Goheen and Mark Romey will be new committee representatives. These changes will be forwarded to Tracy to update the NRCG website information.


NRCG  NW Mt Zone Agency Reps:

§       Cathy Calloway, FNF, Chair

§       Charlie Webster, KNF        

§       Ted Mead, DNRC      

§       Fred VanHorn, GNP

§       Alan Marble, Flathead Co

§       Randy Sutton, Lincoln Co

§       Martha Smith, Sanders Co

§       Steve Stanley, Lake Co



Zone Reps to NRCG Committees

§       Prevention: Marcy Goheen

§       Training: Neil Nelson

§       Operations: Mark Romey

§       Business: Bill Caldwell

§       Fire Use: Dennis Divoky


In addition, within the Zone we have two standing committees to coordinate training and prevention for Northwest Montana:



§       Neil Nelson, KNF, Zone & NRCG Chair

§       Dennis Jones, FNF

§       Todd McNeal, GNP

§       Wally Bennett, DNRC

§       Allen Marble, Flathead Co.



§       Marcy Goheen, KNF, Zone Chair

§       Martha Smith, Sanders Co.

§       Steve Lauer, Lincoln Co.

§       Steve Stanley, Lake Co.

§       Todd McNeal, GNP

§       (TBA vice Pat Cross), DNRC

§       (TBA), Flathead Co.





Cathy will update the contact list for the Zone and get it to all members.

Allen will solicit interest at the next Fire Chief’s meeting to see if there are individuals interested in representing the County on either of these Zone committees. It may be difficult for a volunteer to be involved in all aspects, but would be great to have county representation on both groups to ensure that county issues and concerns are raised and addressed.


NRCG Fall Meeting Update


 Most recent notes are now posted on NRCG web page at


One highlight was discussion of new interagency predictive services weather unit at Geographic Area Coordination Center. Steve Stoll ( and Bruce Thorict will complement existing NWS products, by concentrating on predictive services including a daily “fire day assessment” aimed at IA/Extended Attack considerations. Will be working on establishing the program and assessing needs, supporting training, work with Smoke Mgmt Unit, and input to regional priority setting.  Cathy will forward list of contacts to Steve for spring on-the-ground intelligence. DONE


Paul Chamberlin ( discussed his interagency ground safety position. He is developing a new snag safety approach. He is also tasked with developing an interagency T3/T4/T5 IC workshop that would be put on by a “road-show” cadre in each Zone. Our Zone ”best dates” seem to be the last 2 weeks of June after our initial burst of firefighter training gets done. Cathy will forward dates to Paul. DONE

Training Committee – Neil Nelson


Neil shared that we forwarded 301 nominations from the NW Mt.  Zone for Regional or out of region courses this year. In general this went well. Will adjust how the Zone group looks at prioritization next year to be sure that we get our highest priority needs forwarded into the regional priority process.   It is really important that we take the needs assessment seriously & make it as accurate as we can – has a real bearing on our ability to get candidates into needed courses, especially at NARTC level. Need to be aware that only e-mail nominations will be accepted next year!




Upcoming training:

Ö         KNF is sponsoring several courses this winter (Jan) and during school spring break (March). S-200,S-230, S-232,S-281,S-234,S-215 in either Libby or Eureka

Ö         FNF plans their training academy end of May/early June – courses still being determined

NTC is looking at developing an intermediate Training Academy, possibly similar to the successful system in the State of Colorado. Would be targeted at future AFMOs, FMOs.


Reviewed candidates for S-420 and S-520 this year: three IOF2 and two OSC2 nominated for Spokane 420 course this spring.  GNP may have an additional candidate as FSC2 – if so, need to get to NEIL ASAP. One OSC1, two PSC1  are scheduled for 520 in 2003. Need to continue to encourage and cultivate candidates in all command positions for future team membership.  This is a significant issue regionally & nationally. N. Idaho will be dropping from 3 teams to 2, and is expecting to have difficulty filling those teams as well. Will be incorporating more team members from R8 this year.


On-going discussion of EFF/AD training and the move to Contract trainers. There were some problems last year with the attitude of one contract trainer. Need to formally document the problem to forward back to NRCG thru Neil. NRCG recognizes the need to strengthen accountability and do quality control for contract training. Concern that MOU is not binding, may need more formal agreements? Neil will be the primary contact for our zone for this issue and any feedback. We still have questions regarding taskbooks and qualification certification for non-agency personnel.  In theory dispatching agency should ensure individual qualifications & equipment standards before dispatching contract engines or personnel. This does not always happen. These issues are being addressed by the NWCG Training committee.


Principal training consideration from the county is to ensure that rural firefighters are trained to be able to interact with wildland fire & firefighters in the interface. There is not currently a tremendous amount of interest in pursuing qualifications for Incident Management Team Positions due to availability limitations of local firefighters. There is interest in operations courses such as ST/TF leader.  There may be a need for more broad-based wildland training opportunities for county firefighters beyond the basic courses. Would be beneficial to get county input when we do training needs assessments to insure these needs are identified & addressed.  Perhaps some additional courses can be offered at the local level on a time schedule more do-able for volunteers. One stumbling block is the 310-1 prerequisites and lack of clear equivalency between some of the agency courses and standard fire department training.  We still have questions about equivalency of management and leadership experience and course requirements. Specifically, NFPA1051 equivalency with S-215 Interface course; this was forwarded to the Northern Training Center.   We agreed that we would like to be able to post ALL training opportunities, including county & EMS sponsored training on a  “one stop” website so that it would be easily accessible to all.  There is probably opportunity for more joint/shared training, if we can make this communication easier! 


Neil will follow up on the equivalency issue in general, the specific status of NFPA1051 course, how to get all training info easily accessible.


Business Committee – Bill Caldwell


Notes from last meeting should be coming out soon. Bill will forward. “Back to Basics” business management training will be developed. Likely a 12 hour session, like a S-260 refresher, targeted to single resource bosses and up. Plan is to take this training on the road this year rather than have the Regional Business/Logistics workshop.  Roberta Whitlock has been selected for the Regional Fire Business Management position (vice Emmy).


Discussion of past confusion over EFF (state hiring) vs. AD (federal agency hiring) hiring and problems with the different pay rates for EFF vs. AD positions.  Bill reports that the rate discrepancy has been fixed so that pay is more equivalent for a 12 hour shift. Bill & Charlie will look at the 6 party agreement and see if there is an additional issue here for the zone to address.


Fire Use – No committee report

One item of interest from the NRCG meeting is that we will be moving into a “zone rotation” with a new Great Basis Fire Use Mgmt Team and our Regional Fire Use Team. On-going discussion of team make up, increasing demand for teams, team use in managing suppression actions, need for available support such as Fire Use Modules.


Operations – No committee report

Updates from NRCG meeting include:

Ö         Coming National Crew contract this year (expect 10 from R1), National Engine contract expected by next year (5 from R1). Details soon to be posted on the web

Ö         Discussion of Crew rep and IARR role with MIFF crews. These are valuable positions, we are not taking advantage of due to limited number of qualified folks. Want to encourage more interagency participation to broaden the pool. Will widely distribute training dates. This is a good development opportunity for other agency folks who have been crew bosses.

Ö         Contract Engine crew and equipment standards. Will be working on a plan to ensure meeting all national standards by the 2003 season.


Discussion of Ops committee suggestion that Zones consider interagency drawdown plan for the zone; this could facilitate communication of needs within the zone & help assess pre-positioning needs on a broader Regional basis. Currently each agency in the zone has their own plan, and we feel this is working ok. As we get stretched, we request help or needed resources. We feel this assessment works best as a “ground up” process.


Question concerning the Fire Business Mgmt Handbook, Chapter 20, physical requirements matrix for equipment operators (ie, sawyers vs. water tenders). This is an on-going topic of discussion that Mark can take to the Ops Committee.


Prevention, Closures & Restrictions – No committee report


NRCG committee is fine-tuning the plan, including definitions, exemptions,  and maps. Also developing training package to help Agency Administrators understand the process.


Overall feel that the system worked pretty well during the 2001 season. There was some confusion over the boundaries. Emphasized the need to coordinate with adjoining areas, regardless of where the boundaries are. Discussion of possible improvements to how we “ramp down” from restrictions and closures. Need to find the best balance between being responsive to changing weather and fire danger conditions,  and taking time to be sure we get more complete communication to all partners & the public before a change is made.  Critical to have county involvement in the decisions – esp. when county restrictions need to be changed at the same time. Credibility concerns on both sides – need to be able to have everyone informed and get consistent information to 500+ fire department personnel who make many community contacts, at the same time need to consider the economic/social impacts when deciding how quickly to drop back to lesser restrictions. Try to anticipate the changes with predicted weather and be talking as early as possible.  Continued daily conference calls might help. Also try to avoid Thursday/Friday changes when we can, as that makes the communication tougher.


One real positive step this year was the public service announcements regarding restrictions in the zone. Thanks to John Fraley at MTFWP for making that happen. Also thanks to John Dahlberg and Billy Stewart for helping make things go well this summer.  Discussed the latest draft of our Zone Restrictions Guide. Need to identify new media coordinator. Any comments to CharlieWebster by end of January.


Overall Zone Prevention Plan will need to be updated this winter as well. Marcy & Committee please have an update ready for our spring meeting. Would like to include “trigger points” and objectives and prevention actions at different preparedness levels. Discussed possibility of hosting a SCA Prevention Team. Group consensus is that we would prefer to continue current system of staffing up locally when we need to beef up our prevention presence. 


Discussion of this summer’s coordination in the interface.  We agreed that we can do better  in communication and coordination and that it would be beneficial to discuss and agree on expectations of the role of the County and IMTs in the off season. This is true whether we decide to work in a unified command or with very specific delegated authorities.   If we could more clearly lay this out to an incoming IMT, this could help smooth out difference between how different IMTs worked in partnership with the counties.  Don & Gary will schedule a meeting after the holidays to work on formalizing a clear understanding of each agency and local government’s authorities, responsibilities and operating expectations and limit. County and DNRC are also leading development of a county fire plan that would address how all agencies work together in Initial Attack situations. Could incorporate additional information about extended attack and IMTs.  This is also a broader issue within the whole NRCG Zone. We agreed that we may want to pursue zone-wide discussion of these same issues after some of the local discussion occurs.


Agreed to set up a rotating Hard Copy file of all NW Montana Zone NRCG documents – to be sure there is a central place for all of the “latest” versions of plans and signed documents. Cathy will set up. Will rotate with the Zone Chair.  Please forward any NRCG info that may currently be only in your own files!  Would be good if there was a place to put this info on the web for all to access. Cathy will check it out.


Future topic for discussion -- National Fire Plan  

Agency Plans & progress

Opportunities to better coordinate our efforts?


Spring Zone Meeting Date   - April 30, 2002. Location to be announced.




Thanks to all for a productive meeting. Happy Holidays.


Cathy Calloway, Chair & Scribe