Saturday, January 31, 2009

Earthquake 4.4 M - Southern California, Ridgecrest

Earthquake Shake map

Earthquake Details

  • Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 21:09:22 UTC
  • Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 01:09:22 PM at epicenter
Location35.417°N, 117.786°W
Depth7.6 km (4.7 miles)
  • 13 km (8 miles) WNW (295°) from Randsburg, CA
  • 14 km (9 miles) WNW (291°) from Johannesburg, CA
  • 25 km (15 miles) SSW (204°) from Ridgecrest, CA
  • 157 km (98 miles) NNE (15°) from Los Angeles Civic Center, CA
Location Uncertaintyhorizontal +/- 0.2 km (0.1 miles); depth +/- 1.1 km (0.7 miles)
ParametersNph=059, Dmin=12 km, Rmss=0.22 sec, Gp= 29°,
M-type=local magnitude (ML), Version=C
Event IDci14418600

LAFD: Griffith Park - Smokey but no vegetation fire

Smoke in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles is caused by a movie shoot.

The special effects crew is putting out clouds of smoke over the park

The movie is expected to continue "for some time, but we don't know how long," according to the Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Breaking News: LAC HAZ-MAT WMD response brings felony charges

Hotel firm charged in LA pool chem disposal

The corporate owner of downtown's The Standard hotel has been charged with a felony alleging workers illegally disposed of pool chemicals that sickened subway riders and sparked fears of a terrorist attack.

According to the federal complaint unveiled Friday, workers poured acid and chlorine down a roof drain beside the hotel pool on Jan. 19. The chemicals, pumped from two 50-gallon tanks that were three-quarters full, snaked down to a street-level storm drain and the fumes caused people to start vomiting at a subway station two blocks away.

"They thought initially it was a terrorist incident," said Joseph Johns, who heads the environmental crimes section at the U.S. attorneys office. "You get a report of chlorine gas in the subway and everyone starts thinking nerve gas a la Tokyo."

About 100 first responders showed up at the scene including police, fire and FBI hazardous materials personnel, as well as a weapons of mass destruction coordinator for the FBI. The nearest intersection was shut down for hours.

The complaint names Hotelsab LLC, doing business as Andre Balazs Properties, as the defendant. The company also owns Chateau Marmont and the Mercer along with other luxury hotels in Florida and New York.

"We are sorry for this employee mistake involving diluted swimming pool chemicals," said a statement issued by Nadine Johnson, a spokeswoman for The Standard. "We will continue to assist the government."

The Standard is a popular night spot where the city's young and hip crowd can lounge by the rooftop pool sipping drinks against the backdrop of the skyline.

The maximum fine for the disposing of hazardous waste without a permit is $500,000, Johns said.

On Nov. 18 Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous materials investigator Jim McCarron gave the hotel a maintenance request telling officials that they urgently needed to do something about the chemicals on the roof.

Late that night a hotel supervisor tasked Jared Murphy, a hotel employee who works the graveyard shift, to take care of the problem. In the complaint, Murphy said his supervisor instructed him to put on gloves and run water down the drain while he pumped the concentrated chemicals out of the tanks.

Murphy said he was told the water would "not make it so hazardous."

Johns said more charges could be filed if it's determined that company officials or employees knew that disposing of hazardous chemicals without a permit was illegal.

"Dilution is not the solution to pollution," John said.

Source: SF Gate - Link

CA-VNC-Woolsey IC - WUI - Structure fire - Four mobile homes w/injuries

Update: 13:50 - Fire knocked down, Fire officials said one person was rushed to a hospital in full cardiac arrest. Four structures damaged or destroyed in Chatsworth mobile home park.
Update: 13:29 - Structure fire in Chatsworth, No brush involvement
2 mobile homes on fire in mobile home park. Fire expected to be held with units onscene.
Injuries: 2 injuries, civilian, unk age, gender, severity.
Update: 13:22 - 24425 Woolsey Canyon Rd- 1 mobile home on fire in mobile home park. In brush area.

LAFD responding to multiple reports of a wildland fire, possible structure threat
IA: 13:15 - Responding to reported brush with possible structures. No on scene yet. Multiple calls.
Resources: LAFD, LACoFD VNC
Location: Woolsey Canyon Rd and Valley Circle Blvd; Chatsworth, Los Angeles, CA 91304
area bordering Chatsworth Reservoir Park near Woolsey Canyon. TB MAP 499-F7; FS 106; Google Map - Link
Comms: Ch:9,12 -470.4875

Photo credit: ABC7 video screenshot KABC -Link

Esperanza wildfire: Arson trial Juror's to see flame tattoo on suspect's arm.

Jury to see Calif. arson suspect's flame tattoo

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A judge says jurors in the trial of a California man accused of setting a deadly wildfire will get to see photos of a flame tattoo on his arm.

Raymond Lee Oyler's attorney said he was concerned jurors might see the tattoo photos and conclude his client is an arsonist. But a judge ruled Thursday that the jury could see four photos of Oyler's left arm.

The 38-year-old Oyler is accused of setting the October 2006 fire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters in the San Jacinto Mountains, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors contend Oyler was a serial arsonist who set some two dozen blazes. He has pleaded not guilty to 45 counts, including murder and arson, and faces the death penalty if convicted.

Modesto: Three alarm - Multi-unit residential structure fire - 40 homeless; No serious injuries

Burned out Apartment complex
Credit: Modesto Bee - Link
Update: Apartment complex fire leaves 40 homeless; No serious injuries.
The blaze was reported at 5:52 a.m. and Modesto Fire Department personnel were on scene within minutes, said Battalion Chief Hugo Patino.
Three buildings at the Greenbriar complex at 2200 Coffee Road were “heavily involved,” Patino said.

Modesto Fire Department - Three-alarm fire at an apartment complex
IA: 5:52 am - Multi-unit residential structure fire, Smoke showing, Evacuations underway
Location: Greenbriar Apartments, 2200 Coffee Road in Modesto
Resources: Seven engines, two trucks and 27 firefighters responded. The Red Cross is on scene, helping to arrange shelter.
Damages: Multiple apartments were destroyed or heavily damaged - 40 people homeless.
Sixteen apartments were affected — clustered in units of eight, four and four. They share a common breezeway and attic, Patino said, which likely allowed the fire to spread. The eight-unit cluster suffered the worst of the fire damage, while the others had a combination of fire and water damage. .
Injuries: One resident jumped from his second-floor apartment and suffered a sprained wrist, Patino said. There were no other reports of injuries to residents or firefighters.

News: Aero Union CEO Terry Unsworth has died

Aero Union chief Terry Unsworth has died

Terry Unsworth, the face of aerial tanker manufacturer Aero Union in Chico, has died.

Unsworth died Wednesday afternoon. The cause of death was not immediately available, but was understood to be natural.

Since 2002, Unsworth has worked for Aero Union, a company based at the Chico Municipal Airport that converts military aircraft into aerial firefighting tankers that drop retardant or water onto wildland fires.

In 2005, Unsworth became the president and chief executive officer upon the retirement of Victor Alvistur.

"He was a tremendous people person," Avistur said Thursday from his Chico home. "He could relate to employees, shareholders and customer groups. He was very good in communications.

"Anyone who knows Aero Union, knows this, Terry was a tremendously dedicated worker. He worked hard and long on Aero Union's success."

Unsworth gained wide recognition in 2004 when the U.S. Forest Service canceled Aero Union and other tanker companies' contracts over concerns regarding the viability of the military aircraft. Under Unsworth's leadership and a company team effort, Aero Union was the first company to regain Forest Service approval.

Last year, Unsworth also spearheaded a cooperative program to provide local high school students training at his company that was to lead to paid apprenticeships.

Arrangements are being handled by Newton-Bracewell Chico Funeral Home. Services are still pending.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

News: SDGE threatening to sue 2007 Firestorm victims

SDG&E threatens to sue homeowners from 2007 wildfires

By San Diego Suburban Newspapers
- La Jolla Light

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. is threatening to sue homeowners whose properties were burned in the 2007 wildfires because surrounding brush had not been cleared away, it was reported Thursday.

The utility has already filed several claims setting forth similar accusations against local governments and fire agencies, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Hundreds of burned-out residents, as well as some local governments and fire agencies, have sued SDG&E since state investigators issued a report stating that the utility's equipment sparked the Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon fires. Experts said the lawsuits could take years to resolve.

Utility spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan told the newspaper that a counter complaint raises valid issues about property maintenance and how it affected the spread of the fires.

Source: - Link

Breaking News: Two furlough days a month tentative final ruling

Final ruling: Schwarzenegger can order two furlough days a month

Published: Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

A Sacramento Superior Court Judge today ordered state Controller John Chiang to implement a Schwarzenegger administration plan to furlough state workers two days a month, resulting in a 10 percent pay cut.

Judge Patrick Marlette issued the ruling this morning, rejecting arguments by several state workers' unions that the governor's plan to save $1.3 billion with unpaid time off was illegal and unconstitutional.

Marlette issued a tentative ruling early Thursday and made it final after hearing additional oral arguments from lawyers for state workers in the case this morning.

Marlette's ruling said the state's current budget crisis and lack of funds represented an emergency and the governor's order was "reasonable and necessary under the circumstances."

Chiang said in a statement that he would move immediately to implement Marlette's order with state workers' paychecks next month.

"However painful, this pay cut for state employees alone will not solve the state's budget deficit, nor will it allow me to avoid delaying more than $3 billion in tax refunds, college assistance and payments to programs that protect our most vulnerable and needy citizens," Chiang said. "I urge the governor and Legislature to work quickly to solve the State's $42 billion budget deficit and provide sufficient cash to get the state through the next few months."

The ruling is a major setback for state worker unions, which went to court in December and January in a bid to stop the furloughs from being implemented.

Barring any last minute appeal, the furloughs could begin Feb. 6 and will take place every first and third Friday of each month.

Jim Zamora, a spokesmen for the Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, said this morning that his members were disappointed.

"We've been bargaining continuously with the state for the past week and we hope that we can mitigate this at the bargaining table," Zamora said. "We think we can help the governor achieve his cost savings goals but also cause minimum disruption to the lives of 95,000 state workers that we represent and continue to provide quality public services."

Chris Voight, a staff director for the California Association of Professional Scientists, said his member organization would almost certainly appeal.

"Judges make mistakes," Voight said. "This one just did."

Voight said any appeal would also seek compensation for any wages lost by his 3,200 scientists members.

Matt David, Schwarzenegger's communications director, said state employees must share the burden of fixing the state's budget problems.

"State employees throughout California are hardworking public servants who play a vital role in providing government services to Californians, but as businesses and families across the state are cutting back to make ends meet - so must government," David said in a statement.

Source: - Link

Update: CALPERS Renegotiation of Public Employee Pension Contract Amendment.

CALPERS - Public Employee retirement Ballot Measure 1350 Updated as of January 21, 2009
1350. (08-0018, Amdt. #1S) Renegotiation of Public Employee Pension Contracts. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. ADDED to Initiatives in Circulation.
1350. (08-0018, Amdt. #1S)
Renegotiation of Public Employee Pension Contracts. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
Summary Date: 01/21/09 Circulation Deadline: 06/22/09
Signatures Required: 694,354

Proponent: Paul McCauley

Eliminates certain state constitutional restrictions on renegotiating public employee pension contracts. Allows vested pension benefits to be reduced for existing and prospective public-sector retirees. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Possible reduction in pension costs for state and local governments, depending on future actions by state and local governments and courts. Any such reduction likely would be largely or entirely offset by negotiated increases in other costs, such as employee salaries and wages. (08-0018, Amdt. #1S.

(Full Text)

Past Updates:
01/15/09 01/08/09 01/05/09 12/31/08 12/19/08 12/17/08

Earthquake: 4.2 M - San Clemente Island

Update: Aftershock Details - 43 miles South of Avalon, CA
Magnitude - 3.1
Date-Time - Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 19:20:01 UTC
* Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 11:20:01 AM at epicenter

Location 32.718°N, 118.225°W
Depth 0.2 km (~0.1 mile) (poorly constrained)

* 50 km (31 miles) SE (134°) from San Clemente Is., CA (NW tip)
* 70 km (43 miles) S (172°) from Avalon, CA
* 92 km (57 miles) W (261°) from La Jolla, CA
* 100 km (62 miles) WSW (237°) from Oceanside, CA
* 101 km (63 miles) W (266°) from San Diego, CA
Event ID ci10374081

A light earthquake occurred at 12:41:59 AM (PST) on Thursday, January 29, 2009.

The magnitude 4.2 event occurred 49 km (31 miles) SE of San Clemente Is., CA (NW tip).
The hypocentral depth is 0.4 km (0.2 miles).

Earthquake map
12:41:59 AM (PST) on Thursday, January 29,

Magnitude 4.2 - local magnitude (ML)
Time Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 12:41:59 AM (PST)
Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 8:41:59 (UTC)
Distance from San Clemente Is., CA (NW tip) - 49 km (31 miles) SE (133 degrees)
Avalon, CA - 69 km (43 miles) S (172 degrees)
La Jolla, CA - 91 km (57 miles) W (262 degrees)
Oceanside, CA - 99 km (62 miles) WSW (238 degrees)
San Diego, CA - 101 km (63 miles) W (267 degrees)
Coordinates 32 deg. 43.7 min. N (32.728N), 118 deg. 13.4 min. W (118.223W)
Depth 0.4 km (0.2 miles)
Location Quality Fair
Location Quality Parameters Nst=020, Nph=020, Dmin=32 km, Rmss=0.22 sec, Erho=1.2 km, Erzz=3 km, Gp=226.8 degrees
Event ID# ci10374021

CAL FIRE LNU: Prescribed control burn- The Geysers- Sonoma County

THE GEYSERS – Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit will be conducting a control burn in The Geysers area.
Where: Sections along John Kincaid Road in northern Sonoma County.
When: The prescribed control burn will be conducted between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Why: The return of cooler temperatures will enable Cal Fire to implement the wildland vegetation management tool of prescribed burning to bring the benefits of low intensity fire to specific wildland areas, Cal Fire reported.
Prescribed vegetation management burns are carefully planned and controlled burns that must meet strict criteria of ecological benefit, weather parameters, smoke management and fire safety guidelines.
When all conditions (prescriptions) are met, trained wildland firefighters burn while monitoring the set criteria, fire behavior and designated fire control lines.
The benefits of low intensity fire in the natural environment include:
  • Cleansing of the wild land debris. Excessive dead and down branches, brush and small trees are burned converting fuels that are hazards in the summer into rich soil nutrients for larger species of vegetation.

  • Providing habitat. Removal of decadent fuel encourages the growth of seasonal grasses and leafier plants which affords highly nutritional food and habitat to a wider range of animals.

  • Killing disease. Low intensity fire helps eliminate and control diseased plants and trees.

  • New growth. Controlled burning encourages the healthy growth of new plants, especially those fire dependent for renewal or seed dispersion.

  • Reduces opportunity for destructive fires. Prescribed controlled burns decrease the size and frequency of large uncontrolled destructive wildfires. Prescribed burns are safer for firefighters and area residents.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

LAFD Blog article: You Got a Radio Scanner... Now What

You Got a Radio Scanner... Now What?How Do I Program This Thing?Scanning monitor radios, often referred to as "Police Scanners" or "Scanner Radios" were popular gifts this holiday season.

Received with warmth and a sense of awe on Christmas morning, many have sat quietly since, awaiting the often intimidating process of being programmed.

While manufacturers try to simplify instruction manuals, the greatest challenge seems to be obtaining radio frequency information for local agencies or events of interest.

As you might imagine, Neighborhood Firefighters have been approached often this past month by enthusiasts eager to hear their Fire Department in action.

The good news is that local residents need not traipse to a Neighborhood Fire Station. The Los Angeles Fire Department is pleased to provide comprehensive voice radio frequency information on-line at:

Though our friend Gene Hughes retired from publishing the popular Southern California Police Call radio frequency guide before his untimely passing, there remain several on-line resources to explore scanner radio use in our region:

Monitoring radio frequencies however, will only tell you part of the story. That's why we warmly welcome you (with or without your scanner in hand), to visit a Neighborhood Fire Station, and meet the men and women behind those voices on the radio.

Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Source: Los Angeles Fire Department Blog

LAFD - Structure fire - Police stop firefighters - 1 fatality

*Fatal Structure Fire*

Final update:
Structure Fire With Civilian Fatality
18907 W. Knapp St.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
TIME: 9:13 PM
INCIDENT #: 1105

On Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:13 PM, 5 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 2 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 1 Arson Unit, 1 EMS Battalion Captain, 1 Battalion Chief Officer Command Team, under the direction of Battalion Chief Gregory Reynar, responded to a Structure Fire With Civilian Fatality at 18907 W. Knapp St. in the Northridge area.

Firefighters arrived on scene to find a single family dwelling, approximately 1800 square feet, with one room well involved with fire. Police, also on scene, were at the residence for a prior incident. With information provided by Police on scene, Firefighters used extreme caution in deploying handlines to get a handle on the fire concentrated to rooms to the rear of the structure. The interior fire attack team relayed to the Incident Commander the fire had spread into the attic. The roof ventilation team also indicated they were getting good fire out of their ventilation holes. 23 minutes into the incident, the ventilation team was ordered off the roof.

Police on scene relayed to Firefighters a male occupant of the residence was still inside. During the preliminary search, Firefighters located the resident in a bedroom. He was pronounced at the scene. It took 33 Firefighters 34 minutes to knock down the fire. The cause was incendiary and the dollar loss was estimated at $400,000 [$300,000 structure, $100,000].

Update: Stop the presses! - Wash, Rinse, Repeat - New Spin! -

Editor: First reports were Police blocked firefighters from interior attack due to unarmed upset male?
Now the new version:
Bedroom fire with man alive inside was too dangerous to fight!
Aggressive interior attack not possible says chief...
Firefighters tried to control fire with outside defensive streams while a person was inside?
Did the police FUBAR this thing!
Can police stop a firefighter from legally doing his job?
Editor willing to bet LAFD could of contained fire to bedroom within fifteen minutes and kept victim alive with an aggressive interior attack if cops had not been there.

The latest story according to Battalion Chief Greg Reynar the Fire was fought defensively from the outside "because the blaze quickly spread to the home's attic, creating dangerous firefighting conditions inside, Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Reynar told Newsreel."
While half my guys were wrestling with the cops....

Hours later Firefighters discovered the deceased human in the bedroom, Ruiz said. His name was not immediately released.

The fire caused significant damage to the home, and some damage to a home next door.
Due to the bedroom fire being to dangerous to aggressively attack...

Location: 10987 W. Luddington St.; MAP 503-A7; FS 77;
Initial Sizeup: Garage fully involved w/ SFD exposure. No rpts of inj @ this time.;
Comms: Ch:8,17
LAFD ALERT UPDATE: 31 Firefighters knocked down fire in 26 minutes. No rpts of inj. -
LAFD ALERT UPDATE: Jan 27, 9:23 pm *Structure Fire* 18907 W. Knapp St.; MAP 500-H7; FS 70; Fire showing in 1 room of 1 story SFD. NFD.; Ch:8,12 @ -d'Lisa Davies###
LAFD ALERT UPDATE: Jan 27 2009 9:49 pm
*UPDATE: 18907 W. Knapp St.* 33 Firefighters knocked down fire in 34 minutes. 1 fatality. NFD. - d'Lisa Davies### LAFD Alerts link

News story: One Killed in Northridge House Fire

Fatal Northridge House Fire

A person died in a house fire Tuesday night in Northridge, apparently set by a suicidal man, authorities said.

The fire was reported at about 9:20 p.m. at 18907 W. Knapp St., near Wilbur Avenue, in Northridge, said d'Lisa Davies of the Los Angeles Fire

"Police were on the scene when firefighters arrived and initially would not let them inside the home, Davies said."

911 calls to the Los Angeles Police Department indicated that a unarmed suicidal man had set the fire, according to Officer Karen Smith, who cautioned that any information at this point could not be confirmed.

The fire spread from one room to the attic of the home, but even given the delay, 33 firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze in 34 minutes, said Davies.

Source: MyfoxLA - Link

Man enraged at wife sets home on fire, kills self
Daily News Wire Services
Updated: 01/28/2009 06:26:26 AM PST

NORTHRIDGE - A 64-year-old man who had been fighting with his wife apparently set their Northridge home ablaze, killing himself and causing damage to the house and an adjacent residence, authorities said today.

Police responded to a call of a family dispute about 9 p.m. Tuesday at 18907 W. Knapp St., where a woman told police that her husband was threatening to harm her, Capt. Steven Ruiz of the Los Angeles Police Department told a Newsreel camera crew.

After police arrived at the scene, the woman exited the home safely while her husband remained inside, police said.

Moments later flames broke out inside the residence, prompting officers to enter the home, here they discovered a fire inside one of the bedrooms, Ruiz said.

Arriving fire crews fought the fire defensively -- from the exterior -- because the blaze quickly spread to the home's attic, creating dangerous firefighting conditions inside, Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Reynar told Newsreel.

The fire was knocked down by 33 firefighters in roughly 35 minutes, said LAFD spokeswoman d'Lisa Davies.

Firefighters discovered the deceased man in the bedroom, Ruiz said. His name was not immediately released.

911 calls to the LAPD indicated that the fire had been set by a suicidal man, LAPD Officer Karen Smith said late Tuesday, adding that this information was not immediately confirmed.

The fire caused significant damage to the home, and some damage to a home next door,

Earthquake 3.4 M - South of San Diego, Baja California, Mexico

Earthquake 3.4 - local magnitude (ML)
Earthquake 3.4 - local magnitude (ML)
Time Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 5:48:00 PM (PST)
Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 1:48:00 (UTC)
Distance from Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California, Mexico - 66 km (41 miles) WSW (245 degrees)
Lázaro Cárdenas, Baja California, Mexico - 70 km (44 miles) N (359 degrees)
Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico - 73 km (45 miles) SSW (201 degrees)
Calexico, CA - 75 km (46 miles) SSW (198 degrees)
Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico - 131 km (82 miles) ESE (114 degrees)
Coordinates 32 deg. 2.4 min. N (32.040N), 115 deg. 44.9 min. W (115.749W)
Depth 4.2 km (2.6 miles)
Location Quality Poor
Location Quality Parameters Nst=015, Nph=015, Dmin=68 km, Rmss=0.24 sec, Erho=7.4 km, Erzz=22.3 km, Gp=284.4 degrees
Event ID# ci10373985
Additional Information 2-degree map
Google Earth KML (Requires Google Earth.)

Aircraft down with fire: Santa Monica Airport - Crash kills two

Location: Santa Monica Airport
IA: Aircraft down with fire
Airplane crashed and burst into flames during take-off.
Two persons lost.

Budget : Governor warns of layoffs if Unions don't play along

Schwarzenegger warns of layoffs if unions reject furloughs

By Kevin Yamamura
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger warned Wednesday that if public employee unions don't accept twice-monthly furloughs, he will lay off state workers to reduce salary costs by more than a billion dollars.

The Republican governor signed an executive order last month requiring 238,000 state workers to take two unpaid days off each month starting in February. His order also mandated that the state send warning letters to state workers with the least seniority notifying them that their jobs were threatened.

Labor unions are fighting the governor's furlough order in Sacramento Superior Court, where a judge is expected to rule this week whether Schwarzenegger's plan is constitutional. The governor said that if he loses the case, he will pursue layoffs instead.

"To me, labor has the choice, and I made this very clear: They can help us make the decision in how we can save the ($1.3 billion)," Schwarzenegger said at the Sacramento Press Club. "So our recommendation was furloughs, where everyone takes a haircut rather than laying people off. That's the last thing I want to do, is lay people off. So it's their decision."

"The fact of the matter is in the end I have the authority, if they don't go along with the furlough, to lay people off so we have a savings of ($1.3 billion)," he added.

Source: Sacbee - Link

Wildfire News: MAFFS 2s coming online

Loadmaster Bill Whitlatch operates a MAFFS 2 unit aboard a C-130J aircraft Tuesday with the Channel Islands Air National Guard.
The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System holds up to 3,000 gallons of retardant.

Photo Credit: Stephen Osman

Bigger ammunition to fight wildfires

The next time a wildfire breaks out in Southern California, local firefighters will have some new tools at their disposal.

The U.S. Forest Service last week picked up two new Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, known as MAFFS 2s, which will be used by the local Air National Guard.

After a four-day training session this week in Port Hueneme, Air National Guard pilots will be able to drop vastly increased amounts of fire retardant more quickly and accurately from their cargo planes when firefighters call for assistance, officials said.

In development since 2000, a prototype model of the new system was used in firefighting missions around California this summer. Forest Service officials picked up two of the final models Friday and used them during this week’s training session with the Channel Islands Air National Guard, said Lynn Ballard, a spokesman for the Forest Service.

Six more units are expected to be ready for the agencies’ annual firefighting training in May.

The MAFFS 2 units are essentially removable fire-retardant cartridges for the Air National Guard’s newest C-130 cargo planes. Designed to roll into and out of the planes, the units include tanks that can hold up to 3,000 gallons of retardant and air compressors to spray it out of large nozzles on the planes’ sides known as “pimples,” Ballard said.

Air National Guard crews are spending much of this week training with the new units so they are available as soon as possible, said Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Willson.

“The state needs organic firefighting assets immediately. We couldn’t really responsibly wait,” Willson said. “We’ll be ready on Friday.”

The training exercises, expected to run through Thursday, include about 120 people from agencies including the National Guard, Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Los Angeles and Kern County fire departments and Aero Union Corp., manufacturer of the firefighting units.

Air National Guard pilots have extensive firefighting experience, Willson said. Since 1974, National Guard and Air Force Reserve pilots have flown 6,500 firefighting missions, dropping 167 million pounds of fire retardant around the western United States, officials said.

The Channel Islands Air National Guard Station lost its old MAFFS in September 2006, when it switched to a new model of C-130 incompatible with the old system, Ballard said.

The Air National Guard faced criticism in 2007 after its C-130s were among firefighting aircraft that remained grounded during the early hours of a disastrous series of wildfires in California.

The new firefighting units have a number of advantages over their predecessors, officials said. For example, the built-in air compressors make the MAFFS 2 much more versatile, officials said. They allow the plane to refill at airports that don’t have special compressors on the ground. The compressors can take up to 35 minutes to recharge, but that beats hours of commuting to and from a military base, Ballard said.

The pimple feature allows a plane to spray a dense stream of retardant onto fires, which works better in heavy timber, Ballard said.

The new system also allows pilots to control the amount of retardant they spray, instead of dropping it all at once, Willson said.

“With the new airplane and the new system integrated into it, it makes flying the airplane safer, more efficient and quicker to combat forest fires,” he said.

Source: Ventura - Link

Charges filed in LA Homeless arson murder

Man charged with murder in homeless burning

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A former barber was charged Monday with burning a homeless man to death on a street corner near where the barber worked.

Benjamin Martin, 30, was charged with murder, torture and two arson-related charges. He could be sentenced to death if the court finds true special circumstance allegations of murder by torture and lying in wait.

Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose said prosecutors will not decide whether to seek the death penalty until the case moves closer to trial.

Prosecutors said Martin used a road flare Oct. 9 to set John McGraham, 55, on fire after pouring gasoline on him from a red plastic gasoline can that he left behind.

He was arrested last week. Police said eyewitnesses and DNA collected at the scene connect Martin to the crime.

McGraham had lived on the street in the same neighborhood for years. His family said he suffered from depression and refused to leave the streets.

Martin is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 9. He remains jailed without bail.

Source: OC register - Link

VCFD, USFS - Ventura County Controlled Burns

Who: Ventura County Fire Department along with the U.S. Forest Service, will be conducting two different controlled vegetation burns.
Location: Upper Ojai Valley/Sisar Road area and in Simi Valley near the Regan Library.
When: Wednesday morning and last only for a matter of hours.
Smoke: Each burn site will be closely monitored by fire personnel and the public should not be alarmed if smoke is seen in the burn areas.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CAL FIRE NEWS - MVU - Ramona - Shore line shocker

A state firefighter suffered an apparently minor electric shock today when a piece of equipment a "shore line" malfunctioned at a San Diego County firehouse.

What Happened: The crew member was disconecting the shore line connected to an apparatus when the accident at the Ramona-area Cal Fire station occurred shortly before noon, said Nick Schuler, a captain with the agency.

Injuries: Medics took the firefighter to Pomerado Hospital in Poway for an evaluation, according to Schuler; he was likely to be released later today.

Who: An engineer at Station 82 who is in his 30s - reportedly now has a Don King hairstyle

Cause: The cause of the accident was under investigation. but officially it was said "as the engineer was pulling the line, the cord disconnected and his hand came in contact with some wires from the extension cord, causing it to arc" said Cal Fire Capt. Nick Schuler.

The accident happened as the group was leaving the station, Schuler said, noting that the firefighters were not responding to an emergency call.

Morning Coffee break: Grammatical confusion - Recognizable Doors

Editor: As I slap my forehead!
Update: Re: Coffee Break Training for U.S. Fire Administration.

There seems to be some confusion regarding the grammar in a sentence in today's Coffee Break Training:

A sentence within the body of the text states: "There is no question that the doors could be confused with the adjacent wall finishes," while the photo caption reads ""The pattern on these doors provides a clear contrast to the adjacent wall."

People are asking if that is a conflict, and suggesting the sentence should read"There is no question that the doors would NOT be confused with the adjacent wall finishes." That phrasing, though, is a double negative that is grammatically incorrect.

Rather than "There is no question that the doors could be confused with the adjacent wall finishes," perhaps it would be better understoon if if read "There is no question that the doors would be confused with the adjacent wall finishes."

Thaks for your attention to detail.



Take a quick look around the room where you are right now.
Is the door leading to the exit readily apparent?
Today’s Coffee Break Training, “Recognizable Doors,” describes the requirements for egress doors to be visually different from the adjacent construction or decorations.

Your Coffee Break can be downloaded from

Morning Coffee break - Learning Objective
Means of Egress: Recognizable Doors
No. FP-2009-4 January 27, 2009
Learning Objective: The student shall be able to explain the requirement that doors in the means of egress must beclearly recognizable.
The pattern on these doors
provides a clear contrast to the adjacent wall.
Interior designers, decorators, and owners often select colors, patterns, and styles to convey a specific message or theme about their business.

Occasionally, these design treatments create so much “visual clutter” that it is nearly impossible to distinguish the means of egress from the adjacent walls. During an emergency, building occupants should have clear visual clues to identify the quickest and safest way out of a building.

To avoid problems and prevent confusion, the model fire and building codes require that means of egress doors be “readily distinguishable” from the adjacent construction and wall finishes so the doors are easily recognizable as doors. Mirrors or similar reflecting materials may not be used on egress doors.

No doors in the means of egress may be concealed by curtains, drapes, decorations, or similar materials.

In the illustrated example, the designer applied colorful and visually contrasting wallpaper to the door leaves.

There is no question that the doors could be confused with the adjacent wall finishes.

There is one concern with this solution, though. The wallpaper that was applied must meet the appropriate flame spread requirements for the place of assembly where these doors are located.

In this example, since the building in which it is located is protected by an automatic sprinkler system; the wallpaper must have a Class C flame spread rating. In fact, all of the wall finishes in this space must have a Class C flame spread rating.

For additional information, refer to the International Building Code® or International Fire Code®, Chapter 10, NFPA 5000®, Building Construction and Safety Code®, Chapter 11, NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code®, Chapter 14, or NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, Chapter 7.

Eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) - at
For archived downloads, go to:

News: LAFCO report - CAL FIRE CZU covers SCU without budget

Santa Cruz County taxpayers helps pay for firefighting in Santa Clara County

Santa Cruz County taxpayers are helping foot the bill for fire and emergency medical services in neighboring Santa Clara County, where thousands get the service free.

A review of records in both counties shows state firefighters, while under contract to cover rural parts of Santa Cruz County, routinely respond to service calls in Santa Clara County, where no comparable coverage exists.

The cost to Santa Cruz County of fielding the Santa Clara County calls, which may number 200 a year, is difficult to pinpoint, and goes beyond finances to safety concerns. Those firefighters crossing the county line are not readily available for Santa Cruz County emergencies.

"There's a camaraderie among firefighters that you don't split hairs over costs, but I can understand the problem here," said Pat McCormick, who as head of Santa Cruz County's Local Agency Formation Commission regulates the boundaries of counties and tax districts. "Response in some areas appears to be totally funded (by other areas) and these areas are not providing mutual aid to anybody else."

A Santa Clara County LAFCO report indicates about 6,000 residents in Santa Clara County live outside a fire district, meaning they have no fire department, nor are they taxed for local fire service. Consequently, firefighters from other areas, including Santa Clara County, respond to the roughly 600 service calls these residents make annually, the report says.

The report dates to 2004, but Santa Clara County commission officials say the situation is no different today.

Ferreira's crews are already squeezed by last year's county budget cuts as well as by the failure of a local tax measure in 2007 that would have provided additional fire funding. In both cases, the result has been fewer firefighters on duty in Santa Cruz County.

Santa Cruz County, since the 1960s, has contracted with state firefighters to serve about 24,000 residents not served by a local fire department — mostly in Bonny Doon, Davenport, the Summit/Loma Prieta area, South Skyline and Corralitos. The arrangement runs November through May, since the state pays for coverage during the high fire season.

The service, which cost the county about $2 million last year, is funded through property taxes from area residents in addition to an annual fee of about $120 per household. The cost is expected to increase to $2.2 million this year because the county has requested more attention in Bonny Doon.

The state contract will be discussed by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors today.

Santa Clara County, meanwhile, does not contract with the state for offseason coverage because the vast majority of residents there live within the boundaries of a local fire department.

That leaves the 6,000 residents outside those boundaries relying on nearby agencies for service — what the LAFCO report calls a "subsidy," and a situation Santa Clara County officials say they've begun to look at.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage, without providing a time line, says he expects to find ways to address the gaps in fire coverage, noting his concerns about the safety of Santa Clara County residents who don't have a fire department assigned to them.

But Gage downplayed the additional burden that Santa Cruz County or other fire agencies were bearing by handling calls from these areas.

"There's going to be some unfairness there . . . (but) through mutual aid, it generally washes out," he said.

Gage pointed to Santa Clara County's assistance with the major wildfires that burned in Santa Cruz County last year.

The difference in going to Santa Cruz County, though, is that firefighters don't have to deal with areas where no agency is assigned responsibility and the questions of cost, liability and expectation that arise, LAFCO officials say.

Assigning coverage to these areas is not as easy as it may seem.

Most of the 6,000 residents outside fire districts are in remote areas, where the taxes they but Santa Clara County commission officials say the situation is no different today.

John Ferreira, who oversees Santa Cruz County firefighters as the local California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection chief, estimates his teams field 100 to 200 calls in Santa Clara County each year, which he couldn't easily put a price tag on. A station on Highway 35 responds to areas above the community of Saratoga and a station in the Loma Prieta area heads east over the county line.

"We're not going to stop responding, but is it right for Santa Cruz County resources, meaning money and people, to respond to parts of Santa Clara County where the people aren't paying?" Ferreira said. "And what about having an engine there when our responsibility is here?"

would pay if they were included in a fire district would not cover the expense of covering them, said Dunia Noel, an analyst with Santa Clara County LAFCO. Plus, state limits on the amount of taxes that can be collected could mean stripping other public agencies of funds.

"The districts don't want to expand if they're not going to get the money to provide that service," she said.

But Santa Cruz County Supervisor Neal Coonerty says Santa Clara County has the responsibility of making sure those wildlands get covered.

"We're happy to respond (to Santa Clara County) because protecting lives is a priority, but it should be a level playing field," he said. "If they're not able to respond from some areas, it's a one-way street and that's not fair."

Source: - Link

Palm Desert: Two police rescue vehicles damaged in arson fire

Two sheriff's department vehicles were damaged in a blaze early Monday morning in what law enforcement officials have ruled an arson.

According to police reports, Palm Desert police officers and Cal Fire responded to 74-000 block of Avenue 42 in Palm Desert where they discovered two vehicles belonging to the Desert Search and Rescue Team engulfed in flames.

The fire was quickly extinguished and an investigation initiated.

Palm Desert police and Cal Fire arson investigators determined the cause of the fire was arson.

No injuries were reported during the incident.Anyone with information about this incident should contact investigator Butvidas at 836-1660. Information can also be reported anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 341-STOP.
Source: - link

Monday, January 26, 2009

CAL FIRE Structure fire - Firefighter hospitalized

UPDATE: CAL FIRE Firefighter hurt while battling Highland house fire
One firefighter received minor injuries while battling a house fire in Highland this morning.

The firefighter was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The fire was reported in the 7500 block of Satinwood Court at 8:49 a.m. Fifteen firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection arrived and found the structure engulfed in flames, said fire dispatcher Frank Wilson.

Firefighters gained control of the blaze at 9:08 a.m.

An investigator was on scene this morning searching for a cause of the fire.

Source: - Link

Tahoe wildfire news: TARP The 2008 Best in the Basin award, resignations and more

Breaking Tahoe wildfire news today: The Executive Director of the planning board responsible for, among other things, fire protection in Lake Tahoe has resigned, due in part to blame for lack of wildland fire preparations

TARP The 2008 Best in the Basin wildland fire related award winners are:

Best Residential Defensible Space Work: Nevada Fire Safe Council.
Pretzer residence, 355 Snowflake Ave., Tahoe Vista, owner Carolyn Pretzer. Work by contractor Rockwood Inc. of Kings Beach. Special recognition goes to the Nevada Fire Safe Council.
Best Area-Wide Defensible Space Work: Nevada Fire Safe Council.
Chinquapin Homeowners Association, at 3600 North Lake Tahoe Boulevard, Tahoe City. The Chinquapin complex is a 98-acre property with 172 condominiums and town homes on the Placer County shoreline. The defensible space and forest fuels treatments have been ongoing since 2005. Last year, Chinquapin was recognized as the Best in the Basin winner for best BMPs. Work by North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District hand crews, California Department of Forestry hand crews, CTL Forestry Management of Placerville, registered professional forester Bruce Seabold, and WMC Inc. Special recognition goes to Tahoe Regional Planning Agency forester Brian Hirt and the Nevada Fire Safe Council.
Best Erosion Control Project: USDA Forest Service.
Crystal Bay Phase I Water Quality Improvement Project, Somers Loop Road, Washoe County. This area-wide erosion control / water quality project incorporates several cutting-edge techniques for stormwater management, including vegetated pavers, pervious concrete and large underground infiltration galleries. Work by engineers Nichols Consulting, landscape designers Integrated Environmental Restoration Services, and contractor Aspen Developer's Corporation. Funding by the Nevada Tahoe Bond Act and USDA Forest Service. Special recognition goes to the Nevada Tahoe Conservation District.

Defensible space note: It's important for property owners to take "defensible space" measures to protect their homes in the unfortunate event of a wildfire. There are many simple things you can do to protect your home:

  • Call your local fire district for a defensible space home inspection and/or tree removal permit for fire safety.
  • Remove all vegetation that may be touching your home. Look for tree branches and bushes that have grown up next to your house.
  • Break up dense vegetation around your home.
  • Clear all dead vegetation including tree limbs on the ground, pine needles and cones, dried grass, flowers, etc. Many local fire departments have a free service to chip your dead tree limbs.
  • For areas of bare soil with no vegetation, rake all pine needles once a year, in the Spring; then let them fall and collect the rest of the year. TRPA and all Lake Tahoe fire districts agree that this is both defensible and good to control erosion.
  • Consider leaving the "duff" layer of pine needles in your yard wherever there is bare soil. The "duff" layer is the dark area at the ground level where pine needles are decomposing. The duff layer has low ignition properties and is a ready option to controlling soil erosion.
  • Keep an area approximately 30 feet surrounding your home clean and free of debris or dead vegetation including pine needles. Everything in this area should be healthy and green.

For more information about fire safety, contact your local fire protection district

TARP Angora Fire Information:

(click here) for a status report on TRPA's implementation of recommendations from the Bi-State Fire Commission delivered to the TRPA Governing Board September, 2008.
(click here) for the Bi-State Fire Commission Report
(click here) for the Forest Service report showing the effectiveness of fuels treatments during the Angora Wildfire.
(click here) to go to the Tree Removal Guide.
(click here) to go the Living With Fire website for the Tahoe Basin.

Info: Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Citizens’ Academy


What: John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Los Angeles Field Division announced today that the “ATF Citizens’ Academy” presented by the Los Angeles Field Division is scheduled for January 28 through March 11.
Why: The academy’s goal is to create a greater understanding of ATF’s role in the community through education and open discussion.
“The Citizens’ Academy provides local business, civic, religious and community
leaders an inside look at federal law enforcement in general and ATF in particular,”
Torres said. “The overall goal is build relationships and understanding between ATF and
the community to further help citizens make their communities a better and safer place.”
When, Where, How: The Citizens’ Academy is hosted two times each year and is open to
approximately 30 students per class. Students must be civic, religious or community
leaders, be at least 21 years old, with no felony convictions. The class meets weekly for
approximately three hours and lasts seven weeks. Some of the topics covered include:
• ATF history, mission and jurisdiction
• Firearms/Explosives regulations
• Federal Firearms/Explosives Licensee Inspections
• Violent Crime Impact Teams
• Firearms safety and firearms familiarization/range day
• Certified Explosive Specialist program
• Explosives detection canine program
• Special Response Team (SWAT) and tactical simulation exercise
• Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) program
• National Response Team (Arson)
The next Citizens’ Academy is scheduled for Fall of 2009.
For additional information: Please contact the Los Angeles Field Division at (818) 265-2500. For more information about ATF and its programs visit

LODD: Texas Firefighters in bucket fell approximately 8 stories

Texas Firefighters in the bucket of a 95’ E One fell approximately 8 stories during training at Kilgore college fire academy in Texas.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) has received notice of the following firefighter fatalities:

Name: Kyle Perkins - Rank: Firefighter

Age: 45

Gender: Male

Status: Career

Years of Service: 15

Date of Incident: 01/25/2009

Time of Incident: 1402hrs

Date of Death: 01/25/2009

Name: Cory Galloway - Rank: Firefighter

Age: 28

Gender: Male

Status: Career

Years of Service: 1

Date of Incident: 01/25/2009

Time of Incident: 1402hrs

Date of Death: 01/25/2009

Fire Department: Kilgore Fire Department

Address: 909 N Kilgore St., Kilgore, TX 75662 (USNG: 15S UR 2419 8525)

Map of Fire Department location:

Fire Department Chief: Dennis Gage

Incident Description: While participating in a training exercise at the Kilgore College Fire Academy, Firefighters Perkins and Galloway were in the bucket of a 95’ E One rear mount platform truck when, for a cause still under investigation, they fell approximately 8 stories. Firefighters Perkins and Galloway succumbed to injuries they received from the accident.

Map of Incident Location: Stark Hall - 607 Elder (USNG: 15S UR 2365 8392)

Map view –

Funeral Arrangements: Pending

Memorial Fund Contact and Address: Firefighters Perkins & Galloway Memorial Fund, Citizens National Bank, 301 E Main St., Kilgore, TX 75662 - Tele: 903-984-8671

Memorial Tribute: is being paid to Firefighters Kyle Perkins and Cory Galloway at

To date, 6 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2009 as a result of incidents that occurred in 2009.

USFA does not have a Line-of-Duty-Death (LODD) criterion nor does it make LODD determinations. “Please note, running totals of firefighter fatalities used on these initial notices do not necessarily reflect the number of firefighter fatalities used in totals for the (provisional) monthly year-to-date USFA firefighter fatality reports, or year-end (provisional) reports posted online (

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Report: Wildfire Communications Report - Santa Clara Complex

Wildfire Communications Report on the Santa Clara Complex, August 2003, Field Communications Challenges and Considerations

Santa Clara Complex Burn-Over - The largest fire shelter deployment in California wildfire history.

Photo: Robert Eplett, California OES

Don Stabler, Senior Dispatcher for Contra Costa County Fire, was deployed with CDF's Incident Management Team 1 as the Communications Unit Leader for the Santa Clara Complex wildfires in August, 2003. Photo: Randall Larson

Fireground communications are always problematic on wildfires. Communications Unit leaders deploy equipment and personnel around the incident to accomodate communications between fireground units and dispatchers at the Incident Base Camp.

by Don Stabler, COML, CDF Command Team 2
A detailed account of managing communications during a major campaign fire. The Santa Clara Complex of August, 2003, not only challenges communications unit leaders due to difficult terrain and multiple fires over a 31,000 acre region of northern California, but was also the cause of the largest fire shelter deployment in California wildfire history.

Early in the morning of Tuesday, August 26, 2003, a series of lightning strikes sparked a number of major wildfires in the hills between Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties – burning a swath of 31,000 acres from the south/east region of the San Francisco Bay Area to the foothills of California’s central valley. These fires, most of which were fortunately in remote areas well away from homes, would challenge local and state firefighters, test field communications managers, and result in the largest deployment of fire shelters in California wildfire history.
As the Communications Unit Leader (COML) for CDF Incident Management Team 2, which was on response standby for that week, I watched reports of the lightning strikes carefully, anticipating what they would do to the dry grasses on the hillsides.
By 8:00 AM I reported for duty as the shift supervisor for the Contra Costa County Communications Center. Within two hours we received a report of smoke on North East side of Mount Diablo, the largest mountain on the eastern San Francisco Bay Area. Since “the Mountain” had not sustained a major fire since 1977, I thought that this could turn into something major. With the response, though, of a small army of firefighters from Contra Costa County Fire, East Contra Costa County Fire, San Ramon Valley Fire, East Bay Regional Parks, and the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CDF), including a CDF Air Tactical Unit (a small, fixed wing aircraft that is used to coordinate the deployment of firefighter helicopters and air tankers during a wildfire), crews were able to find their way into a remote and fairly inaccessible area and keep the fire to a few acres. The outcome on this sure could have been much different. As units were containing the fire, the CDF Air Tactical Unit advised he was leaving to check reports of smoke in the hills of Livermore in adjacent Alameda County.
As the morning went on, we monitored the local CDF radio channel and heard more and more smokes and fires being reported. By early afternoon, I was notified that my CDF Command Team was being activated. I advised my Comm Center Chief, Brent Finster, who had anticipated my sudden departure, and I prepared to head for the city of Morgan Hill in south Santa Clara County, where a command post was being set up to manage what was quickly becoming a complex (a series of related fires managed under a single command organization). Our team would be supporting the local first responders (most of which where CDF or county resources).
A short time later, though, as I was arranging for shift coverage, Morgan Hill CDF called to say that our assignment had been changed, and we were to report to the Camp Parks Regional Army Reserve Training Facility in Dublin. This brought a smile to my face for a couple of reasons: one; Camp Parks is where we have done live fire training exercises for the last ten years, and for the first time in my six years on Team 2, the fire was close by! This time, I would not be the last person on the Team to arrive!
We reported at 8:00 PM to the Alameda County EOC, located at the Santa Rita Jail complex adjacent to Camp Parks. We were informed that we being were given a “box of fires” that was about 40 miles by 60 miles, and believed to contain about 20 separate fires. This box included parts of Alameda, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties. Ultimately, eight of these fires became significant incidents. As incident command transition took place and we made our plans and put in our orders, I was pleased to see CDF Fire Captain Paul Jones enter the room. Paul is assigned to CDF’s Amador-El Dorado Unit, east of Sacramento, and when I see him it usually means Com-45 – one of CDF’s powerful mobile communication centers, is parked outside. That meant we had an excellent, and familiar, vehicle to serve as our Comm Unit for the next __ days.
In cooperation with the Logistics Chief on our Team, I started getting our communications plan in order. An order for Incident Dispatchers (INDIs) had already been placed into the mutual aid system when we were activated; I requested four more plus a Communications Technician (COMT) to support our operations. By morning, though, I hadn’t received word about who would be filling those requests or when. Aware of the immediate need to staff our comm unit to handle this significant array of wildfires, I took the bull by the horns and “obtained” two dispatchers who I knew were qualified and were also close by. CDF normally frowns on “named requests” when asking for mutual aid overhead personnel, but there are times when the system will make it work. This was one of those times, and I worked with our incident ordering manager to get them deployed in a timely manner. The first was Kelley Dwyer, from my own agency. She, eventually, as additional personnel arrived, became the Incident Communications Manager (INCM) at the Camp Parks Base. The second dispatcher came from the Hayward Fire Department and like Kelley, Ester Jobrack lived close by. Having people with lay of land knowledge in the Comm Unit has paid off time after time. Later that day, my next two Incident Dispatchers arrived. The first was Laura Lewis, a CDF Engineer from Humbolt County in cool, coastal Northern California. The second was firefighter II Melissa Leader from Riverside County, from deep, sweltering southern California. (Between the two of them, we could never get the temperature in the Comm Unit right!) Within the next day and a half, we picked up 4 more people and had adequate staffing for the north part of the incident. A separate CDF Team was handling the south part of the incident from the Morgan Hill base.

Communications Issues
Almost immediately, I had spoken at length with Mike Stonum, the ECC Chief at CDF’s Morgan Hill Command Center (which is the local dispatch/command facility for all or part of the five counties involved in the Complex. We discussed frequencies, repeater sites, and available resources needed to accommodate the firefighters on this end of the fires. One of the problems we encountered initially was due to simple miscommunication. When Mike BC Stonum and I discussed frequencies and he told me which ones we should use, we each assumed the other had actually placed the order to use them (in California, fire radio frequencies are ordered through the mutual aid system, like strike teams or incident dispatchers). This blunder, which I’ll accept the blame for, came to light on Day 4, when we started getting complaints from the Butte County CDF unit and CDF’s North Ops Command Center in Redding about being on the wrong channels.
Early on it had been determined that a “spike camp,” or smaller, satellite command post, would be established at Morgan Hill’s Christmas Tree Park to support resources assigned to the south end of the fire. Morgan Hill CDF has a small but capable Comm Unit (Com-1629) and it was deployed at this location, staffed with some local CDF personnel and volunteers, all of whom did a great job managing communications for the fires on the South end of the complex. I had ordered an INCM to be deployed there, but instead received another Comm Unit Leader, Rick Pound from the CDF Tehama-Glenn unit. I directed Rick to Christmas Tree Park and acted as my Deputy at the fire’s south end, running the comm unit there and saving me many phone calls and trips to between the CP and the spike camp, which were a good hour apart.
Another issue was frequency coverage. We never were able to establish adequate communications with the spike camp via radio. I believe it was possible, we just lacked getting the right equipment installed in the right place. Having worked for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department in the late 1970’s as a dispatch supervisor, I knew that even then there were coverage issues in the Livermore hills area. I called a radio technician I knew from Alameda County named Gene Alga, and asked if this problem had improved at all in the intervening years. He advised me that since they had gone to a trunking system, the problem had only gotten worse. For the first four days, we added, relocated, and changed out repeaters. While this would improve coverage in some areas, it would always cause coverage to be lost in others. There were a couple of mountaintops that would have worked great but we couldn’t use them since fires were threatening them. I found it eerie that a person talking on a handheld radio in Livermore could be heard in Butte County (almost 200 miles north), but couldn’t talk to someone over the next hilltop. Cell phones were also sporadic. We issued cell phones from a state OES mutual aid cache, and we had a few places where people could use their cell phone, but they could not use their radio. Eventually, we procured a portable repeater from our own County WMD cache and placed it on top of Mount Diablo, supplementing the others we had, and that finally solved our communications problems.

The Annie Fire
Of all the fires in the complex, the “Annie Fire” would be most problematic, consuming almost one third of the total acreage of the complex. As the fire burned east toward Interstate 5 in Stanislaus County, the communications issues on the south end became pretty overwhelming. I decided to have CDF’s Com-1629 move east and become a mobile relay to enhance communications for the Annie Fire. To replace that unit at Christmas Hill Park, I ordered up a third comm unit, the venerable OES Comm Support 5262 out of Redwood City, which at my direction came with an Incident Dispatcher from San Mateo County Communications, Don Cherry. OES Assistant Chief Marvin Howard “greased the system” and within 90 minutes the unit arrived at Christmas Tree Park. A subsequent order was placed and two more local CDF personnel arrived to cover the positions vacated by the personnel who had taken Com-1629 east.

Since communications coverage was not great, and with the number of fires and number of personnel assigned to the incident (over 2500), I was very concerned about the potential for a real bad “event” taking place. My worries were well grounded. Around 4 AM on Friday morning, August 29th, I was awakened in my hotel room by a call from one of our safety officers, advising that a burn-over had occurred and that 55 fire personnel had deployed their shelters to survive the flames. By the time I found my heart and placed it back in my chest and arrived at the Incident Comm Unit, it was determined that we had only two minor injuries. And it was in an area of decent radio coverage. I could start breathing again.
Nine days after I arrived, the fire was contained and controlled and the Command teams were being released. For me, it was very strange to be sitting outside the Comm Unit on demob day, realizing that this unit was parked within a mile of where my fire service career started, back in April of 1970. I had, indeed, come full circle.

Lessons Learned
If I had to do it again, I would have probably ordered up another Comm Tech or two with instructions to “tie in the incident and make it work.” While I had good Comm Tech’s assigned to the incident, none had worked a complex fire before. I should have found a Comm Tech that had done a few of these and who would be familiar with what would, and what would not, work effectively during this type of incident.
Some of the frustrations I felt were with the ordering of personnel for the comm unit. I do understand that, when you are ordering a large amount of engine, dozer, and hand crew strike teams, a request for Incident Dispatchers is probably of high priority to only the COML. But no one could really explain to me why the first two requests were filled with CDF personnel were from the far ends of the State, while requests days later were filled by local personnel. That has been an ongoing and frustrating problem within the mutual aid system for some time. However I do want to emphasize that all 20-some personnel assigned to Comm Units of this complex did an outstanding job under very difficult and problematic circumstances. Since these fires were all within the State Responsibility Area, and this the major fire in the State at the time, we had units and personnel from each of CDF’s 21 operational units. Four local government strike teams were eventually ordered, however, to provide for structure protection later in the incident, and Safety Officers were ordered from local departments whose knowledge of the area were very valuable.

Don Stabler is a Senior Fire Dispatcher with the Contra Costa County Fire Department in Pleasant Hill, California. He will have completed his 34th year of public safety dispatching on April 21 of 2004. Don has served on various committees, state and local, and has assisted at OES Fire and Rescue Headquarters in the past doing resource coordination during major fires and floods. Don has served on the California Fire Chief’s Association, Northern Division, Communications Section for over 10 years and is the lead instructor in their “Incident Dispatcher” Program

Source: 911 Magazine - Link

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." --Abraham Lincoln

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