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A Mile In Your Shoes

On a recent fire update a commenter names TAXEDTOTEARS voiced their frustration:

“I was watching the “firefighters” at the airport this morning & was somewhat disturbed; I think anyone seeing their homes / property burnt would be unhappy & should contact the USFS / CALFIRE. Everyone was visiting, standing around, sitting, calling friends on phones & doing ANYTHING BUT acting like there was a fire emergency. Crews / firefighting helicopters & planes just sitting on the ground while the fire was getting larger & doing more destruction! Was not until later in morning as temps were warming up nicly did people start moving – and at a leisurely pace!!! Someone at CAL FIRE / USFS needs to look into the delays / wasted resources. . .Where is the LEADERSHIP????”

There were several comments exasperated with TAXEDTOTEARS insinuation. Below is the response from UberPest. While long and equally clear in voicing tremendous frustration, it is very informative:

“Omg, omg, omg, they were just sitting there?! You’re right, they should have been doing marching drills or something. No “firefighter” should be insensitively sitting around acting like the world isn’t coming to an end just because there is a fire burning somewhere.

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is, as a “firefighter,” to be held off the line because of circumstances beyond your control?

Two tankers, two copters and an air attack were on hold (committed) overnight for use on the Graham Fire the following day. So why might aircraft and their crews just be goofing off at the airport in the morning doing nothing? So glad you asked.

As we are now told, air attack (spotter plane) had a mechanical problem that held up the morning fixed-wing air show. It doesn’t necessarily account for copters remaining grounded.

After ground crews have fought the fire all night and weather conditions have or have not changed, the fire is being reassessed, briefings being given (nothing like walking into hazards the previous shift didn’t warn you about) and the fire plan being revised. Aircraft and their crews may be waiting to be reassigned, on standby or demobilized.

There is often an inversion layer in the morning which causes the smoke to hang low over the fire and surrounding area making visibility about zero. Imagine how many of your tax dollars will be spent rectifying the little oopsie of aircraft slamming into canyon walls under those conditions.

At night, winds are in a downslope pattern and switch to upslope as the air heats in the morning. Unfortunately, more than one copter crew has been offloaded in a safe area near the fire only to have the winds suddenly shift and crewmembers die. Best to wait for the weather to be a little less squirrelly or more of your tax dollars will be wasted in death benefits and hospital bills.

Radio traffic sounded like somebody with a head injury (uh-oh, there goes more of your tax dollars) had to be evacuated from the Graham Fire yesterday. Perhaps it’s a waste of tax dollars to keep the firefighting aircraft clear of the area while the individual was rescued but think on the bright side, you saved more tax dollars by not having them colliding with the evac copter during the rescue. (Personally, I’m hoping the individual comes through this good-as-new no matter how many of my, or your, tax dollars are spent to patch up this unfortunate “firefighter.”)

And you are correct, the USFS should be investigated for CAL FIRE command decisions. It’s only fair after all, right? Why don’t we investigate the Groveland Fire Department while we’re at it since they had engines and “firefighters” on scene too? I mean, you’ve made it abundantly clear you are so utterly incensed that your tax dollars went to having “firefighters” and aircraft standing by during a dual emergency situation that you want more tax dollars spent funding multiple investigations on, um, why they were standing by. If any other agencies have equipment and/or “firefighters” on either incident, we can demand those departments be investigated also. Certainly everybody wants to know why they were just hanging out and not being insubordinate by getting on out to the fires.

Just an off-the-wall guess about why they moved at a “leisurely pace” instead of rushing about like the Keystone Cops to impress the looky-loos; they were told to prepare to leave in fifteen minutes, half an hour…?”

There are several comments a day that do not get posted or are edited because they are personal attacks on other commenters. There are many reasons that it is hard to share an opinion or disagree but wouldn’t it be better to ask before we judge a person and at least try to walk a mile in their shoes?