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Private firefighters' role growing in state

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  • johnsb
    replied
    Originally posted by drparasite View Post
    it's always been a case where the rich can afford more stuff.
    Duh. That's my goal, to be able to afford more stuff. But I don't go generalizing and whining about what I don't have.

    But back to the main point, if these crews can't speak English, it's time to dump them. That should be a REQUIREMENT for getting contracted.

    Leave a comment:


  • slackjawedyokel
    replied
    Originally posted by NCalElias View Post
    There are two major iterations of contract/private firefighting, and their roles in wildland firefighting are quite different. The more traditional form is where companies such as Firestorm (mentioned in the article) have their roots and is quite prominent in the Pacific Northwest while it hasn't been received as well in California. They contract engine companies, hand crews, and just about anything else an incident could need (aircraft, camp support, etc), and especially in the latter examples are extremely dominant. There's long been controversy over these contractors providing firefighters on engines and hand crews, and there are quite a few valid concerns in this realm. Essentially these companies train and equip their personnel, which renders quite a few problems, both with firefighters who are inadequately equipped (why was a rookie firefighter on a hand crew allowed to go anywhere near a fire with only two water bottles) and even worse, inadequately trained. Not to point fingers, but while some of these companies take their training and equipment very seriously, some don't. To speak anecdotally, I've sat through a 40-hour that was essentially a joke... very little information was provided, even less received, and in reality not a single person in the class left the room knowing anything more than when they entered it. This 40-hour is the basic firefighter training - and a cornerstone of our safety programs. To have the instructors cluelessly stick a video about helicopter pilot PPE in the VCR, leave, and come back about 45 minutes after it ended to discuss it (they hadn't realized it was that irrelevant), was to say, ridiculous. The class as a whole ran along those lines. While not such an issue this far south, there have been concerns about language barriers in the Pacific Northwest, and in these have led to serious safety issues though work has been done to mitigate this problem. Some of these crews have very poor work ethics, while many have excellent work ethics - and that has a lot to do with the leadership. A common complaint of supervisory agency personnel has been the need to babysit many of these crews, basically saying that they have serious concerns about the competency and safety of these crews. These concerns are not unfounded, though once again I don't wish to point fingers or blame names at this point. Drug usage among private firefighters is very problematic, and my experience... well, I don't know a whole lot of them who don't have a favorite illegal substance. Smoking marijuana on the fireline is completely unacceptable. It happens. Another major concern is to understand that these contract firefighters are only paid when they're on a fire. No fires, no cash. From time to time, there's been issues where contractors, to put it nicely, have made work for themselves.

    However, with some "privatize the government" agendas that have been running around lately, don't expect this to go away anytime soon. The USFS is a wreck and the firefighters are acutely aware of it. I can assure you that I wrote pay and benefits on my exit interview (even if it was medical aids and structure fires that really got me to leave). The high-ups in the Forest Service don't want to fix it - they deny that problems exist even as high-level congressmen call them out on their bluffs. In all sincerity, I believe they truly desire for the greatest wildland fire service in this country to collapse - then they can privatize everything in this business.

    The other form of private firefighting is much newer, and I'm still a little uncertain on exactly what they're doing. My understanding is that insurance companies are hiring engines to spray retardant on expensive homes prior to the fire's arrival. That essentially they don't put out any fire, but simply make homes more defensible and less receptive to firebrands and leave before the fire ever arrives. Sounds like a good idea, but we need to be certain that it's coordinated through the ICS and that safety of these personnel is a priority.

    PS - Most of the money on the Cal-Fire side is probably going to local fire departments and the handful of county agencies. They're not too keen on the contractors.
    your experience with contract crews is a little different from mine --I worked on a contract type 6 engine that primarily contracted with the USFS and some with the BIA -most of the contract engine crews were usually retired usfs /active or retired municipal firefighters --- most were EMTs or medics we all had to pass the pack test and have worked a task book to achieve our level of training. Several times my boss had to step up and assume a strike team leader position as the federal agencies were scrambling to fill that spot. As a contractor we generally went through a more thorough inspection of our engine -we failed safety once due to one clearance light being out. The biggest difference between us and an agency engine was the fact that as a contractor we were judged on our performance on the line.

    Leave a comment:


  • FyredUp
    replied
    Originally posted by drparasite View Post
    it's always been a case where the rich can afford more stuff.
    Yet they are usually the stingiest and the least willing to pay for municipal services.

    Leave a comment:


  • drparasite
    replied
    it's always been a case where the rich can afford more stuff.

    Leave a comment:


  • FIRE117
    replied
    Originally posted by FyredUp View Post
    I would suggest that these private contractors hardening properties against wildfires are doing a job that most local fire departments have neither the time nor staffing to attempt.
    Money, too. Some communities do not want to pay for fire protection. We all know that it costs a ton of funding to equip, staff and conduct operations. While we want to provide the optimum service to our community, funding is an issue.

    In my area, you can go to one community and have awesome community support. Newer apparatus, younger people involved, successful fundraisers and other support. We actually have a city in my county, that closed its fire department around 12 years ago. The city council voted to dissolve it. No formal fire protection arrangement has been made since, to have fire protection services for that city. Became a "No Mans Land." Last month, a fire broke out, other fire departments and fire districts were expected to respond, to this city that does not pay for fire protection. The ultimate wakeup call and now they are looking into annexing into an adjacent fire district. I do not know how any of the commercial properties in that city, ever got fire insurance coverage.

    When you see a McMansion being built, you can guarantee that a lawn sprinkler system will be installed in the lawn. If you ask if fire sprinklers will be built in the McMansion, you can be assured "that would cost too much." Its all about priorities.

    Sorry for the rant.

    Leave a comment:


  • Here and there
    replied
    Originally posted by FyredUp View Post
    I would suggest that these private contractors hardening properties against wildfires are doing a job that most local fire departments have neither the time nor staffing to attempt.
    I suspect the home owners respond better as well. Insurance company threatens to raise rates, or drop the customer, Yes, sir right away! Fire department tells them to clean up or they will get a fine F'n Gubment over reach!

    Leave a comment:


  • tree68
    replied
    Originally posted by FyredUp View Post
    I would suggest that these private contractors hardening properties against wildfires are doing a job that most local fire departments have neither the time nor staffing to attempt.
    That, too!

    Leave a comment:


  • FyredUp
    replied
    I would suggest that these private contractors hardening properties against wildfires are doing a job that most local fire departments have neither the time nor staffing to attempt.

    Leave a comment:


  • tree68
    replied
    Originally posted by Too_Old View Post
    Those outfits that harden properties in case of approaching fires are just that. A tool for the insurers to minimize their loss.
    I would opine that they are little different from the salvage corps that existed in many cities - funded by the insurance companies.

    Leave a comment:


  • Too_Old
    replied
    The whining of those who live of expanding the size of government unions. What else is new ?



    If there is a problem with the quals of some contract firefighting outfits, the process to ensure uniform training needs to be fixed. It's a question of good vs. bad, not public or private.


    Those outfits that harden properties in case of approaching fires are just that. A tool for the insurers to minimize their loss. To some extent this is the private sector stepping in to perform risk mitigation where the public sector has failed. As long as they don't get in the way of the state/fed crews, I don't see how you could deny a property owner the right to minimize his risks.

    Leave a comment:


  • FIRE117
    replied
    I could see a use for these contractors for specialized equipment (aircraft, etc.) for special situations. Not every jurisdiction has the cash to staff/equip for all incidents. Obviously, a state may have its own DNR aircraft for wildland response, but they may not even staff it for the winter. If a major drought struck their state, the usual DNR aircraft & pilots may not even be enough to cover all incidents in their state. Contractors fill the void for skilled personnel (pilots, etc.) and equipment (aircraft, etc.).

    My solution in some cases, is for a state to mobilize its resources from their own national guard. This manpower is already at a states disposal to respond to emergencies. The National Guard has a rank structure, which has its leadership already identified. Even placing a few military members along side existing civilian services, can add manpower. Most National Guard assets in our states have pilots, medics, military police, truck drivers, etc. that can supplement labor for emergency operations.

    Leave a comment:


  • cellblock
    replied
    Bump
    I saw this recently linked to Drudge Report. Seems the debate about these private services is still going on.

    Source- https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/we...-their-n869061

    Insurance companies such as AIG are hiring experienced FFs as members of 2 man "mitigation" teams. They do pre-incident assessments and when a threat of wildfire occurs they are dispatched to perform tasks such as clearing brush and limps, foaming and spraying down exposures and hitting hotspots. It seems some of the government guys don't like the private services doing their own thing and not being part of their ICS. Frankly, I see this as being not much different than a company or homeowner contracting for Private Security when a threat of civil unrest occurs. Except these guys don't have Kevlar vests and pistols but have chainsaws and hoses.
    More about the AIG program featured in the article at- https://www-200.aigprivateclient.com...n-how-it-works

    Leave a comment:


  • NCalElias
    replied
    There are two major iterations of contract/private firefighting, and their roles in wildland firefighting are quite different. The more traditional form is where companies such as Firestorm (mentioned in the article) have their roots and is quite prominent in the Pacific Northwest while it hasn't been received as well in California. They contract engine companies, hand crews, and just about anything else an incident could need (aircraft, camp support, etc), and especially in the latter examples are extremely dominant. There's long been controversy over these contractors providing firefighters on engines and hand crews, and there are quite a few valid concerns in this realm. Essentially these companies train and equip their personnel, which renders quite a few problems, both with firefighters who are inadequately equipped (why was a rookie firefighter on a hand crew allowed to go anywhere near a fire with only two water bottles) and even worse, inadequately trained. Not to point fingers, but while some of these companies take their training and equipment very seriously, some don't. To speak anecdotally, I've sat through a 40-hour that was essentially a joke... very little information was provided, even less received, and in reality not a single person in the class left the room knowing anything more than when they entered it. This 40-hour is the basic firefighter training - and a cornerstone of our safety programs. To have the instructors cluelessly stick a video about helicopter pilot PPE in the VCR, leave, and come back about 45 minutes after it ended to discuss it (they hadn't realized it was that irrelevant), was to say, ridiculous. The class as a whole ran along those lines. While not such an issue this far south, there have been concerns about language barriers in the Pacific Northwest, and in these have led to serious safety issues though work has been done to mitigate this problem. Some of these crews have very poor work ethics, while many have excellent work ethics - and that has a lot to do with the leadership. A common complaint of supervisory agency personnel has been the need to babysit many of these crews, basically saying that they have serious concerns about the competency and safety of these crews. These concerns are not unfounded, though once again I don't wish to point fingers or blame names at this point. Drug usage among private firefighters is very problematic, and my experience... well, I don't know a whole lot of them who don't have a favorite illegal substance. Smoking marijuana on the fireline is completely unacceptable. It happens. Another major concern is to understand that these contract firefighters are only paid when they're on a fire. No fires, no cash. From time to time, there's been issues where contractors, to put it nicely, have made work for themselves.

    However, with some "privatize the government" agendas that have been running around lately, don't expect this to go away anytime soon. The USFS is a wreck and the firefighters are acutely aware of it. I can assure you that I wrote pay and benefits on my exit interview (even if it was medical aids and structure fires that really got me to leave). The high-ups in the Forest Service don't want to fix it - they deny that problems exist even as high-level congressmen call them out on their bluffs. In all sincerity, I believe they truly desire for the greatest wildland fire service in this country to collapse - then they can privatize everything in this business.

    The other form of private firefighting is much newer, and I'm still a little uncertain on exactly what they're doing. My understanding is that insurance companies are hiring engines to spray retardant on expensive homes prior to the fire's arrival. That essentially they don't put out any fire, but simply make homes more defensible and less receptive to firebrands and leave before the fire ever arrives. Sounds like a good idea, but we need to be certain that it's coordinated through the ICS and that safety of these personnel is a priority.

    PS - Most of the money on the Cal-Fire side is probably going to local fire departments and the handful of county agencies. They're not too keen on the contractors.

    Leave a comment:


  • localtrainer75
    replied
    First, I would not classify them as firefighters.

    http://cbs13.com/video/

    The link above has good footage of a fire near yosemite.

    Leave a comment:


  • NCalElias
    replied
    .
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    .
    .
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    .
    .
    .
    Last edited by NCalElias; 07-27-2008, 11:26 PM. Reason: didn't like it

    Leave a comment:

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