1. Larry Sall says

    You have been a Hot Shot and shovels are worthless? well, the hybrid tool you guys carry now days looks to be just that, worthless. The shovel I speak of was the “lady shovel” with a deep dish and a short handle. These shovels could dig and throw dirt a long ways. The 5 guys toting these shovels on our crew would knock fire down so we could get in and start cutting fireline, you know, “Hotline”. That’s O. K., maybe you don’t know what “Hotline” is but I digress.

    You are defending an agency in decline and since that’s all you ever known then I respect your defense. I’m angry at the loss of life and lessons NOT learned. What I’m defending is the track record and methods used by original Hot Shot crews in Southern California who didn’t deploy fire shelters for decades. Now we’ve got deployments with fatalities all over the place. We’re trying to tell the agency something.
    1) Mandatory U.S.F.S. Staff Rides for Hot Shot supervisors; review of the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders etc.
    2) Identify “Flashy Fuel” zones in each Forest.
    3) Initial attack on all fires in “Flashy Fuel” zones to keep them under 10 acres.
    4) Leave the 45 lbs. back packs in fire camp. They are not needed to effectively construct fireline.
    5) Review the tool type and lineup needed for efficient line construction.
    6) Re-establish night shifts as this is the best time to construct fireline. It’s safe, just use your head.

    Larry Sall
    3rd Hook
    Little Tujunga Hot Shots
    “you can look it up”

  2. Gary Olson says

    Let me see if I got this straight Mr. WFF…or is that even your real name? Because John Dougherty doesn’t know the strange looking tool used almost exclusively by wildland firefighters that has a grubbing hoe blade on one end and an axe blade on the other end is called a Pulaski, in addition to all of the other meaningless minutiae you pointed out, we should either ignore or ridicule his reporting on this story? Really?

    If Mr. Dougherty was not following this story and reporting on it, the only people talking about it would be Darrell Willis, Jerry Payne, Jim Paxon and the spokesperson for the City of Prescott. Would that scenario make you happy Mr. WFF? And that includes you…you used Mr. Dougherty web site to “beat on your chest” about who you think you are, you seem to have plenty you think is important for others to read. You should thank Mr. Dougherty for providing you this forum. Why don’t you state the hotshot crew you served on, your position, and how many years you were in that position?

    I got lost on most of your petty examples…but the one that really threw me, was your example of days off. Are you saying a hotshot crew can be sent to a large fire on the 13th day that is supposed to be their day off, because they can still be home in time to take their mandated day off (mandated for safety reasons, you know…so they don’t make mistakes and get killed due to fatigue) or take their day off in fire camp that is only a few miles from their homes? Really?

    We don’t know what crew you were or are on, or what you level of management responsibility is, but if you think you can, or should use hand crews to do structure protection, you are certainly in the small (thank God) minority. You should listen to what the now retired BLM director of fire management says at this link

    At least John Dougherty has the courage of his convictions to put his name on what he writes, and he stands by his reporting. If someone has pointed out a VALID error he has made in trying to break into a very close knit and highly specialized society where most people are conditioned to keep their mouths shut and toe the company line, he has made corrections.

    Sent do, dispatched to, gone to, deployed to a fire…who cares? What is important here, is that everyone does everything they can to make sure such an anomaly, an aberration, an event that is not only horrific but is unprecedented (do you GET that Mr. WFF, study the Loop Fire, the Battlement Creek Fire and the South Canyon Fire and then come back and spout your nonsense) in the history of wildland firefighting is not ever repeated by the blending of wildland firefighting with structural firefighting again…ever.

    • Brian T. Miller says

      I agree. There is a demonstrated need for investigative reporting by people not invested in the wildland community. Otherwise, I don’t think all aspects of these incidents would be fully aired. Only when objective analyses are developed can preventitive or mitigating policies be enacted. The old excuses that always get trotted out in the past: “extreme fuel conditions, brutal terrain, once-in-a-lifetime weather conditions”.” just gets more firefighters killed.

  3. WFF says

    I just got back from an assignment and have been catching up with all this. It is a tragedy that no words can describe.
    I have to say that I’m not overly impressed with the reporting. I genuinely feel like Mr. Dougherty has gotten himself in the middle of this through self-importance, self-promotion, and to grandstand his product. I listened to the interview and was pretty disappointed that Mr. Dougherty passed himself off as an authority of some kind. I think that Mr. Dougherty’s reporting is full of inconsistencies’ in details and full of sensationalism in his descriptions. Mr. Dougherty misquotes the “Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations” handbook, Chapter 7, Safety and Risk Management, Length of Assignment section pages 07-3 thru 07-6. Regularly scheduled days off are often worked in wildland fire. Two days off are required after 14 days of continuous work. There are three different scenarios for work days, they are not complicated to understand and are spelled out very plainly. The 13 day is not the 14. Why SWCC would not assign Granite Mountain is not clear and speculation won’t clear it up. There are two or three squads on each Hotshot crew depending on its overhead configuration; squads are not equivalent to a crew. Hotshots are crews not teams. Hotshot crews are assigned to a fire or receive an assignment to a fire, they are not deployed that word infers a “shelter deployment” in the wildland fire world, military units are deployed that’s their world. Wildland firefighters don’t go to war with fire, we fight fire no romanticism needed it’s plenty dangerous. Wildland firefighters work from anchor points not safety zones and there can be large differences between the two. A safety zone could be an anchor point, but an anchor point may not be a safety zone. If that seems complicated it because you’re not a wildland firefighter.
    Hotshots work in structure protection all the time and are a high quality resource. I would use an Hotshot Crew in a structure protection situation on my division instantly. Hotshot’s have several different hand tools they use along with chainsaws. I never used, saw, or have seen a pick used as a hand tool and any hotshot would tell you that shovels are useless. Their training, experience, and ability more than equips them for the assignment. Mr. Dougherty doesn’t seem to understand what their role would be in this situation. You don’t need a fire engine to engage in structure protection and it doesn’t imply that you would be suppressing a structure fire. Getting into an urban setting as a fire approaches and working around homes or implementing a firing operation to defend homes is not unusual. It doesn’t mean you’re going to stand between a house and oncoming fire. Most of us realize we don’t change clothes in a phone booth and aren’t delusional. I have never heard anyone suggest that we should self-sacrifice.
    90% of structures involved in a urban interface wildland fire are lost after the flame front has passed by. These houses are lost to ember wash getting into attics, through cracked windows, the fire creeping through lawns and igniting wooden porches, fire wood stacked against structures or igniting ornamental lawn plants, ect. Re-engagement into urban areas after the flame front passes can be very successful. A lot of times you can simply pull back into the interior of a housing area (in all those mowed lawns or roads), wait, and then move into the outer perimeter houses after the fire has passed.
    I, also, think that there are several people who have contributed to the replies section because they need attention or want to beat their chest about what they used to be. We’re all aware that things didn’t go right, that’s obvious. It should also be obvious that this is an inherently dangerous job. Yep, the agencies cover up to avoid liability and protect careers, I personally have witnessed these things. I don’t think it’s a revelation that people lie when they’re scared and doubt there are many of us who can claim we haven’t. I heard a fellow wildland firefighter recently cite some good statistics: 98% of wildland fires are suppressed in initial attack (IA) 2% escape IA and go into extended attack. 99% of the time nothing happens and operations are normal, 1% of the time we have a near miss or minor injury, and .01% of the time we have a serious injury or fatality. We choose to learn or not to learn in those 1% moments. His point was how hard is it to be prepared or to prevent .01%. People can’t stay on that edge. People make mistakes if they didn’t Space shuttles wouldn’t explode and special forces soldiers wouldn’t die, these are the top of the line. Not all accidents are preventable because people aren’t perfect. What organization wouldn’t want a 98% success rate. Of all the fires that start we only hear about the large ones, of all the firefighters that go to IA or assignments (thousands) the mass come home. Fatalities are not acceptable but they are reality because of imperfection. Cover ups happen because telling the truth has liability. Our suppression policies have caused the majority of our problems now. We have a massive fuels problem across the country, warming temperatures, increasing fire seasons, and shrinking budgets. There is not a black/white answer, this going to take sacrifice on a national level. The public has an expectation and right to expect us to protect them and fight fire, they pay taxes for that. I haven’t met a citizen who thought their house was worth my life, most have been more than gracious for my work. We need to educate the public, we need to use prescribed fire first around houses then into the interior, suppress fires when they are immediate to the public, and we need to create a Fire Service by combining agencies. I’ve been a wildland firefighter for over 20 years, 14 of those as a Hotshot. I served in the military for 4 years; also, I have been to college, just to cover those bases. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having worked on five “deployment” fires (I have not “deployed” a shelter personally) and three fatality fires. I’m proud I’m a public servant; I have been for over 25 years. That’s two cents I know I’ve earned.

    • Gary Olson says

      Let me see if I got this right Mr. WFF…or is that even your real name? Because John Dougherty didn’t know the strange looking tool used almost exclusively by wildland firefighters that has a grubbing hoe on one end and an axe blade on the other end is called a Pulaski, in addition to all of the other meaningless minutiae you painstakingly pointed out, we should ignore or ridicule Mr. Dougherty’s reporting? Really?

      If Mr. Dougherty was not reporting on this story, the only people talking about this event would be Darrell Willis, Jerry Payne, Jim Paxon and the spokesperson for the City of Prescott. Do yo

      • Melody says

        Really, it’s tragic and I cried when the story broke. This journalist was extremely irresponsible. Anyone with common sense would know what he did was wrong. Why are there investigations? To allow emotions and shock to settle.

        • Gary Olson says

          You haven’t been keeping up with current events. I know for a fact that the Battlement Creek Fire investigation was a cover-up.

          The leading voice in wildland firefighting safety for at least a generation, Dr. Ted Putnam, refused to sign the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain investigation because it was a cover-up along with other fire investigations that he was on that he knows were also cover-ups.

          It has already been announced that the Yarnell Hill Fire investigation is going to be given to Arizona State Forestry and then they get to decide what parts if any, of the investigation they release to the public.

          The work that John Dougherty has done is going to be the closest thing you or I will get to the truth. Will it be the whole story? No. The powers that be have repeatedly refused to cooperate with his inquiries and have refused to release information to help him find the truth.

          Of course you could just be content with reading all of the stories that have been released with the cooperation and support of the powers that be, there are now several of them.

          Reading them is kind of like watching a made for television movie that is based on an actual event, but has very few facts in them or relevant information regarding the truth.

          I should know, I was part of the problem for a very long time, part of my job was to dig the holes to bury the bodies. I wanted to keep my job and health insurance just like everybody else.

          In conclusion, I’m afraid I have some very bad news for you. The reason there are investigations is to provide cover for the agencies that were responsible for these tragedies through their policies and deliberate incompetence.

  4. gotwood4sale says


    That was a good interview. There are certainly many questions that remain unanswered. The maximum amount of good that can possibly come out of this sad and tragic event can only occur if the maximum amount of truth comes to light. Keep up the good reporting John…everyone benefits when truth is leading the way.


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