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Senator Conrad Burns apology to FF's

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  • NJFFSA16

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said
    Tuesday a verbal attack by U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., on
    federal firefighters for their work in quelling a Montana wildfire
    was unfair, adding that he was proud of the job being done by the
    10,000 U.S. Forest Service firefighters he oversees.
    Johanns' comments came while visiting the National Interagency
    Fire Center in Boise, which manages 15,000 firefighters from five
    federal agencies, including the Forest Service and Bureau of Land
    Burns made his criticisms during a July 23 confrontation at the
    Billings, Mont., airport with firefighters from Virginia. He told
    them they'd done a "****-poor job" of fighting a 143-square-mile
    eastern Montana wildfire and said Boise was a "ridiculous" site
    from which to coordinate national firefighting strategy, the Forest
    Service has said.
    Johanns was in Boise to attend the World Potato Congress, a
    symposium on Idaho's No. 1 agricultural crop, but he made a
    sidetrip to the fire center for an update on extreme fire
    conditions in the West, where more than 50 large fires are burning.
    National Weather Service meteorologists predict the next three
    months will be warmer and drier than usual.
    "To be quite candid, I think it's very unfair to the
    firefighters," Johanns said of Burns' comments. Johanns praised
    them for their determination in dangerous situations - such as an
    Aug. 13 helicopter crash near Yellow Pine, Idaho, that killed four
    people, including three firefighters from the Payette National
    "It's been a tough season, from a number of standpoints," he
    added. "But that loss of life makes it especially difficult."
    Burns, who is locked in a tough re-election battle with farmer
    and state Sen. Jon Tester, has since apologized for his outburst.
    Through a spokesman, Burns said he was merely giving voice to
    frustration of Montana ranchers who lost valuable grazing land in
    the Bundy Railroad blaze.
    The cattlemen blamed firefighters for not fighting the fire more
    "It was evident the level of frustration his constituents had
    in Yellowstone and Big Horn counties," said James Pendleton, a
    Burns spokesman in Billings. "They (firefighters) would surround
    the fire, and let the center area burn out. That's grazing land,
    and it can't be insured."
    Despite Burns' criticism of the operation in Boise, Pendleton
    said Burns - a member of a subcommittee that helps negotiate the
    National Interagency Fire Center's budget - isn't pushing to move
    the center elsewhere.
    "The key here is, there needs to be more local input," he
    said. "We need to look at communication issues, both interagency
    and communicating with the locals."
    Fire officials in Washington, D.C., who oversee the Boise
    center, which employs 500 people during fire season, say they also
    have no plans to change the mission of the center, which last
    September stepped in to coordinate relief efforts for U.S. Gulf
    Coast hurricane victims and rescue crews.
    "We are satisfied with our interagency coordination," said Tom
    Harbour, the Forest Service's director of fire and aviation
    management, in an interview with The Associated Press. Harbour was
    also in Boise Tuesday.
    Nonetheless, Harbour said anytime a U.S. senator complains, his
    agency takes note.
    Animosities such as those that arose in Montana might have been
    avoided if there had been a more open dialogue between firefighters
    and ranchers who feared for loss of fields, he said. Instead of
    burning out grass to prevent spread of the fire, an alternative
    might have been considered to preserve more private acreage needed
    for grazing.
    "Burning out is something we commonly do on public land,"
    Harbour said. "On private land, ranchers depend on that forage for
    income and to feed their families. There's quite a difference. The
    senator was reacting to concerns of private landowners."

    (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • SamsonFCDES
    Thanks for the info niowa, I did get the emails as well. I have been out of town for CEDAP, I will dig into them as soon as I can and see if I cant get something moving. I kind of have the feeling that the state wants to sit still until fall and the new program, but they could surprise me...not likely.


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  • LVFD301
    Just as an aside,

    Although we can participate in the FEPP program,
    we have been advised by GSA that we cannot
    participate in the federal surplus program, other than
    using govdeals.com or such.

    The reasoning behind it is we are not a department
    supported by "public funds". When asked for a defination
    of "public funds" they advised that only a tax based
    fire department was considered to be supported
    by "public funds".

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  • hwoods
    Originally posted by neiowa
    The DOD DRMS (mil surplus system) is going thru some major changes (closing 2/3 of their warehouse/yards) that have somewhat interupted the supply of equipment and made a major PITB to inspect/transport (longer distances). However one of the 18 remaining (or new sites) is at Great Falls, MT. There are three other sites in your "area' Colorado Springs, Co; Minot, ND; and Tacoma, WA. There is no change in the FEPP process where your forester requests (freezes) online DOD or GSA surplus equipment.

    neiowa - could you post the revised list, or a URL for those who are interested in this subject, so they can find other sites around the Country?? Thanks.

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  • neiowa

    I know you're aware of the way FEPP works (surplus is available, state forester requests, GSA allocates to one of the requesting state foresters, ownership transfered to US Forester (who "owns" the FEPP program), who loans to the state forester, who loans it to the local FD.


    According to the US Forestery website the Mt FEPP contact is

    Duane Erickson
    Montana DNCR
    Division of Forestry
    2705 Spurgin Road
    Missoula, MT 59804-3199
    (406) 542-4273
    Fax: (406) 542-4208
    [email protected]

    The DOD DRMS (mil surplus system) is going thru some major changes (closing 2/3 of their warehouse/yards) that have somewhat interupted the supply of equipment and made a major PITB to inspect/transport (longer distances). However one of the 18 remaining (or new sites) is at Great Falls, MT. There are three other sites in your "area' Colorado Springs, Co; Minot, ND; and Tacoma, WA. There is no change in the FEPP process where your forester requests (freezes) online DOD or GSA surplus equipment. If allocated to him away you go. Now my understanding is Mt has a shop set up to inspect/maintain/modify/paint DOD vehicles and then they issue (loan) to FD. That may be good or perhaps bad. Depending on if the charge you for the work they do (I think so) and if they will ALLOW you to obtain vehicles outside of their shop system (I don't know).

    Frankly the email you pasted in doesn't make a lick of sense. I think they are telling you you can't get a 5t truck for wildland use (as an engine) unless you get it thru them with mods. I'd call BS on that and contact my elected reps.

    There is a new program (not widely known about) thru US forester called the "Firefighter Program" (FFP) where FD will be able to get equipment and an earlier/higher issue priority (equal to what the cops have long had with their LESO program). Recipient will also receive title to the equipment. Seperate discussion perhaps but I'm not convienced that the title transfer piece is a good idea (apparently a bunch of cops stand to be going to the bid house over longtime use of LESO to fund the donut/scholarship funds). The Fire Service does NOT need to be going down that road. In any case this new program is only operational in a few states. This may be what your contact is refering to. However and "purchase" price is something your forester is pulling out of their butt. There is no requirement by the US Forester of DOD that the equipment go thru any particualar maint facility before issue to you. Maybe a good idea but not typically the case across the nation. In Iowa (as in most states) is issued to FD as recieved from the Feds/DOD.

    I'm sure you know you can (as has been the case for many many years) obtain surplus equipment thru your state surplus office (for cash). You get title and the $ go (typically to cover transportation of the equipment to Mt and to maintain the lifestyle to which the employees of the state surplus office have become accustomed.

    What do you need right now? I'll send you a info on a couple of likley vehicles that could be worthwhile to any FD. I have not had them inspected or checked actual condition with the units that turned them in. We can do that after the MT forester gets off their butt, requests them and/if they are allocated to MT and to you. I'll send PM as there no doubt are others that would be very interested and point is to test your state forester. Ill send you info for a very nice semi tractor for tanker chassis, a civilian model pickup, and for a 6x6 for wildland, and something else not vehicle. Will try to get a PM off to you today.

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  • SamsonFCDES
    Which still makes me wonder if its possible to cross state lines and use FEPP through another state...Iowa or Cali!!??!!?!?

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  • SamsonFCDES
    Well, here is the verdict for MT...no way to do FEPP or the like at this time. This is the answer from the top of the food chain. Maybe someday soon..I hope. I really like the look of NOIWAs brush truck!
    Last edited by SamsonFCDES; 08-10-2006, 05:13 PM.

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  • SamsonFCDES
    Nope, looks like the systems broke.
    Last edited by SamsonFCDES; 08-10-2006, 05:14 PM.

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  • SamsonFCDES
    NIOWA, question for you.

    Can you suggest any resources or further reading to pursue to gain a better understanding of how this all works?

    It seems like a dream come true, to good of a deal, etc...

    We have a lot of apparatus to udate, etc...this would be by far the most afordable way to do it!

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  • hwoods
    Here's an Idea...............

    Samson, Neiowa, and anyone else that is interested - Send a letter to the Chairman, National Volunteer Fire Council, asking what they can do to help make the Surplus program work better for us. I'm starting a letter today, I'll post it when I'm done.

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  • SamsonFCDES
    Good dicussion gentlemen, I can see we are all heading the same direction but along different roads which all seem rather bumpy at times.

    I admit that I am guilty at times for being hard on the Feds, but I am only 1/10 as hard on them as most people I know! I used to work for BLM fire crews, engine/helitak district crew, so I know that the system at the grunt level works pretty well, its the management ant top down issues that I have a problem with.

    I am amazed with what NIOWA has done with surplus and a lot of elbow greese! I have tried to learn from what he has done, but I have not been able to dedicate enough time to it at this point.

    Montana is totaly FUBAR on the surplus systems. The needs to change ASAP as we do have a very serious and worsening (global warming, logging issues, interface growing) wildfire problem. We need to get better equipment in the hands of the VFDs and we need more full time career federal/state firefighters.

    I am planning on studying the surplus system more as time allows. NIOWA has done great things in a state that seems to have some of the same surpluss problems we have, so there has to be a way!

    Again, I do wonder if its possible to cross state lines on the surplus thing? I have that Benji set aside just in case!

    Edit: Went back and got rid of the pics of the Mean Green Machine as I relized it was screwing with the width of the forum!

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  • hwoods

    NonSurfin' Thanks for clearing up a few points for us. I, for one, am in the position of responding to Wildland or Structure Fires, with Wildland or Structural Apparatus. I am also a Chief Officer in a Large Combination department. My point was not that I expected 10 Engines from a Big City Department to end up on a Mountain top in Montana, with their crews out on the Fire Line, digging. I do feel strongly that those 10 engines and crews could be protecting structures in towns threatened by the Fire. Here, The comment that "We don't have enough Engines" would be cause for someone being sent home, we do not have a limit on apparatus. Someone recently did some work on a disaster plan, and found that we could get 100 Engines assembled at a central location in Less than 3 hours, WITHOUT LEAVING ANY STATION EMPTY. We send apparatus out of state from time to time, most memorable was the 30 Pieces from Maryland that went to Florida about 5 or 6 years ago.

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  • NonSurfinCaFF
    Ok, maybe I was a bit annoyed but there is a distinct bag on the Feds theme in these forums. Some deserved (FEMA, DC) some not.

    I don't expect you to know how long we run our apparatus, however the trucks are already being practically given away, if the states are taking advantage that is your states problem, not a Fed one, I know California and Arizona have functional programs in place because our equipment is out there being used by the local departments. Bashing the Feds because your own state is sticking it to you is uncalled for. Maybe the Feds should handle the door to door delivery but then I'm sure some would complain that the Feds are getting involved in a state issue, so you see its a no win situation. AS NIOWA said cheap ex Fed engines are out there, its a matter of dealing with several levels of government. I know of entire FD's outfitted with ex-fed engines structure (DOD) & wildland (USFS, BLM etc). Alot of this equipment sits because nobody takes it.

    Part of the USFS mission is supporting rural fire protection so our equipment is sold for $1, what the states do with it I don't know. As far as I know a Forest can not "decide" to surplus it other than to the state forestry department. Not sure about other agencies but I understand they have similar policies.

    Harv part of your problem is probably your location, the smaller Forests of the East typically lease GSA engines, when they are done with them they go back to GSA and who knows what GSA does with them.

    Samson in your case I'm sure a large part is your state, obviously Montana has alot of USFS and BLM engines that could be going to you when they reach the end of their service life but I would guess part of the problem is the anti-Fed attitude so common in the area (those who might be inclined to help probably just avoid any extra dealings with the locals) and then someplace there is a break down in your state government. You need to remember Montana was one of the states that originated the idea of the USFS changing from the green to a white paint job on the trucks, they wanted to be a less obvious target.
    How much effort have the departments in your area made to obtain these old engines, when I worked in Region 3 several local fire chiefs would come down and ask about the trucks we had going to auction so they knew which ones they wanted (we had all slip on units so the trucks were auctioned seperately).

    As far as the teams go, when was the last time you let a homeowner make fire ground decisions on a structure fire? Not really much difference between that and letting ranchers call the shots on a large wildland fire. I know many ranchers have wildland experience but most have no real concept of the big picture strategies involved on a 40-50,000 acre fire, realistically neither do the Chiefs of small departments, when an IMT is activated it generally involves alot more than one ranchers property or even a fire districts interests, it is generally a pretty serious incident involving a large geographical area, with many conflicting interests involved (life safety, private property, cultural sites, environmental concerns etc).

    The Fed IMT's allow non-Fed members, the Fed IMT's started allowing this long before any State IMT's did. I know of at least one Type 1 team that until recently was run under an IC from a County FD. State and Municipal FF's can take lead roles in the most demanding emergency management positions in the world, that doesn't really sound like the Feds being all knowing and pompus to me. They know how to bring control to chaos, sometimes they may step on a few toes, its bound to happen, you can't make everyone happy. I know I have chased some amazingly expensive political smokes all in the name of keeping the ranchers happy, then usually some "watch dog" group shows up and starts complaining about wasteful spending.

    The use of locals is a tricky thing, there have been many examples of local departments doing their own thing completely outside the knowledge or control of the IC, that is not a good way to encourage a team to use you over their own agency crews that can be expected to follow the rules and to have the quality expected (ability to operate unsupported for 24 hours, available for 14-21 days, required training is met etc). Besides the locals really need to be released to protect their district, it sucks to be in sight of a major fire and not being involved but that often happens, even with our crews. When we have a major fire on the Forest it is not uncommon to have several off forest strike teams come in to the fire and the local Forest crews go back to their stations, it makes more sense to have our crews that are familiar with the area responding to new starts than it does to put some engine possibly from out of state in our stations.

    As far as contract engines that is a political issue far removed from the IMTs, it is a big can of worms that can be as heated as any smoothbore vs fog, paid vs volly, or lights on povs topic, so I'll decline to go there.

    As far as how useful a single type 6 is? For one thing that is a bit of an exageration You have to remember those engines are there for the Forest, BLM land etc, not to protect the entire state. They put out alot of fires you never hear about, they also are there to make contact with the public, enforce regulations, educate etc, most have level 2 law enforcement powers (meter maids ) they also do alot of resource improvement work (including putting up fences so the ranchers cows can graze on Federal land), its not your typical image of career FF's sitting around waiting for the bell to go off, we are on duty for 8 hours / day and we are expected to get alot of work done in that time.

    As far as the college kid comment, that is probably still true in your area but that is changing, R3 (AZ/NM), R5 (California) and R6 (OR/WA) have developed a real career path for the firefighters, our salaries still have a long way to go but the crews are largely career positions. In the other regions it is still not uncommon to find captains who only work 6 months a year but at least most are no longer temp employees.

    As far as the quality of the crews, I stand by that, the Fed wildland agencies have some of the best crews out there. The Fed agencies (USFS, BLM, USF&WS, NPS, BIA) respond to 15,000-20,000 fires / year on Federal lands, I don't know what the numbers are when you add in mutual aid, but I would guess it doubles at least, so the experience base is certainly there. Training is pretty much unmatched by any agency I've seen, we get alot of training and we are required to meet the training requirements or we don't go to fires. I doubt very much any firefighters from any agencies can match the fire experience of the Hotshot crews, very few will see that kind of fire in their careers.
    I'm not saying that other agencies don't have crews as good as the Fed crews simply they are among the best. Sure some are slugs and we have our culls, with about 20,000 FF's you will have some slip by, but they are the exceptions.

    As far as loading up a bus with drivers armed with dollar bills, I'll see if I can get more information about our excess property, I was in Sacramento last year and there were 20-30 of our old engines, Model 42 type 6 (90 gpm, 285 gallon tanks), Model 51 & 60 Type 3's (150 & 350 gpm, 300 & 500 gallon tank) and several patrol trucks sitting there waiting for someone to claim them.
    Last edited by NonSurfinCaFF; 08-04-2006, 11:09 PM.

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  • hwoods
    Something Isn't Right................

    Originally posted by NonSurfinCaFF
    I love the way people love to bash the Feds without knowing what they are talking about. The USFS typically runs light type 6 engines (1 tons) for 5 years, heavy type 6 engines (Ford F450, 550) up to 10 years and heavies type 3,4, & 5s for 15 years. When its time to get rid of the engines they are sold to local fire departments for $1, yes 100 cents. The disposal is handled through the state forestry offices so if you guys are not getting these deals look at your state, not the Feds. This only applies to the fire equipment so a slip on engine will have the truck sold at auction and the slip on unit will be passed along to the state forestry agency. This is probably the situation you will have in Montana since the Model 52 in several sizes is quite popular. Having to buy a truck for it is not as nice as getting a whole unit for $1 but a $10,000-20,000 slip on unit practically for free is still quite a deal.
    Bro, You and I usually are on the same side of the discussion, and I respect your position, but I can't buy this story, this time. Here's where I'm at: I can't comment on how long the Feds keep apparatus, I've never been a party to that information. However, I have what I consider a good handle on Surplus Property and I'll explain: I'm employed in Fire Protection by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Forest Service. I am also a Volunteer Fire Chief, and I chair the Legislative Committee for the Maryland Fire Chief's Association, as well as being the Chair of The Maryland State Firemen's Association's Surplus Property Committee. I have been working for over TWO YEARS trying to find a Surplus Engine from BLM, BIA, USFS, NPS, and anyone else in the Federal Alphabet soup. I have a trail of emails that make a "Get-rich-quick" chain letter look small by comparision. I still have not found a single one. None. No one can, or will, tell me where these things go. Several folks have said that I ought to hang around Long Beach Harbor (Calif.) and watch what gets loaded onto ships for the Federal Giveaway programs overseas. No one in Maryland has purchased an Engine for a dollar from a Federal agency, Period. Never. My boss has climbed all over people all thru the Fed system, no luck. The Congressman for my district is a member of a VFD, and he has been asking pointed questions, and not getting a straight answer. Something Ain't Right.

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  • neiowa
    It would be very interesting to know how the Forester Type ___ engines/trucks are disposed of at the end of the Federal Service Life. There is a "loophole" that essentially allow a Fed agency the OPTION of trading in equipment to the seller of a like new replacement piece of equipment. You can bet that gets bent a bit. Called an "Exchange/Sale Authority".

    So who makes these Forestry trucks used by BLM/etc? Ask the Sales agency/Mfg concerned if they are receiving the old trucks as a trade in on the new units.

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