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The Changing Composition of Firefighting Resources: Agency/Contractor Relations in Wildland Firefighting November 2008 Prepared as an educational resource.

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Presentation on theme: "The Changing Composition of Firefighting Resources: Agency/Contractor Relations in Wildland Firefighting November 2008 Prepared as an educational resource."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Changing Composition of Firefighting Resources: Agency/Contractor Relations in Wildland Firefighting November 2008 Prepared as an educational resource for agency and professional wildland fire contractors by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

2 Key Wildland Fire Resources “Contracting is very important to federal wildland fire management. Contracts for activities in prevention, initial attack, large fire suppression, fuel treatment, and other fire management programs account for a significant portion of the expenditures. Without the use of contractors and other partners, the agencies would not be able to meet public expectations for protection, treatment, and restoration.” Source: 2005 Quadrennial Fire & Fuels Review, final report

3 The Contractor Community Professional wildland fire contractors: –Represent 1/3 rd of the national wildland fire community. –Form hundreds of contracting companies in US –Employ over 10,000 employees 25% who are previous agency employees –Form at least four different trade associations.

4 Benefits of Contracting Can be more economical More widely available Diversity of resources Additional standards for training & employment No long-term costs No overhead (i.e.. benefits, insurance, etc.) No state or federal workers’ compensation claims

5 Benefits: Availability Sources: National Wildfire Suppression Association report, August 2008; Neil Hitchcock, National Interagency Fire Center

6 Benefits: Availability (cont.) The PNW has access to considerable contract resources. 98% of contract crews are based in the PNW. Source: 2007 Extension Interagency Firefighting Crew Agreement (Bob Young, Oregon Dept. of Forestry) via NWSA

7 Benefits: Resource Diversity Contract personnel provide a wide variety of resources including: –Human resources Fire crews, Type 2 Resource & technical specialists Timber Faller modules –Suppression equipment Engines, Tenders, Dozers, Excavators, Skidgines, heavy equipment, trailers, etc. –Aviation equipment & services Air tankers, fixed-winged aircraft for use as lead planes, reconnaissance, smoke jumper delivery, helicopters, retardant, mechanics, ground support, communication trailers, etc. –Incident support Catering services, clerical trailers, shower facilities, hand-washing stations, toilets

8 Benefits: Higher Standards Contract personnel are often subject to additional training standards –MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) used in Regions 1 and 6 to set standards for training professional fire contract resources. –Crew contract experience requirements Source: NWSA

9 Benefits: Higher Standards In addition to meeting the wildland fire standards, contractors must comply with: –Fair Labor Standards Act –McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act –Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act –Field sanitation of Occupational Safety & Health Act continued….. Source: Presentation by the US Dept. of Labor, “Wage & Hour Laws Applicable to Reforestation Work”

10 Benefits: Higher Standards Continued… –U.S. Dept. of Transportation (FMCSA – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) Regulations –All other state and local regulations (i.e.. OR Farm Labor Contractors License required for all hand crews) Source: NWSA

11 Benefits: Other By contracting services and equipment, agencies avoid the long-term costs of procuring, maintaining equipment and/or hiring and training personnel. Agencies have no overhead associated with contracted personnel such as benefits and insurance. As contracted personnel and not agency employees, responsibility for workers’ compensation or other work related liability claims remains with the professional wildland fire contractor.

12 Contract Personnel Utilization The number of contracts for equipment and personnel has increased. –USFS has over 1,000 contracted resources in all facets of wildland fire activities. Contract resources are a vital part of the National Fire Plan. Emergency Equipment Rental Agreements (EERAs) have matured into more traditional contracts. Use of contract personnel has doubled in the last 20 years in the NRCG.

13 Contract Personnel Utilization (cont.) Number of Contract Crews based in Pacific Northwest grew from 150 in 1993 to almost 300 in Source: Bob Young, Oregon Dept. of Forestry, via NWSA

14 Contract Personnel Utilization (cont.) In Region 1, contract engines make up 60% of all agency (USFS) resources* Region 6 USFS Blue Ribbon Committee estimates additional equipment and personnel needs for the next decade: –400 engines –250 tenders –200 crews *Source: John Bennett, private contractor in Reg. 1.

15 Contracting Issues Despite 60+ years of contractor involvement and numerous benefits, contract personnel can be viewed in a different light relative to agency resources. Perceptions vary concerning: –Capabilities (i.e. some think contractors are not as qualified to be on fires as agency personnel; many think they are all of transient nature and only in it for $) –Training (i.e. some think contractors are not “trained professionals” as agency personnel are; unaware of high standards of training they are held to) –Oversight These perceptions can strain agency/contractor relations –Present safety hazards when on incidents –Lack of community –Lack of cohesiveness on fires presents threats

16 Case Study: Lessons Learned in PNW Many regions have been working to improve contractor/agency relations and perceptions. A contract liaison team in Region 6 was interviewed for their lessons learned. –In forging positive relations with contractors, R6 USFS Contract Working Team (CWT) has focused on: Communications Staffing Cost Sharing Contract Management Technology Many of their practices are being replicated in other regions throughout the country.

17 Case Study: Communications in PNW PNW agencies and contract personnel work to: –Hold annual meetings that share current and future policies –Hold biannual meetings with associations –Hold annual meetings with agency administrators to gather feedback on the contracting process. –Distribute a mutual respect letter to the PNW coordinating group and associations.

18 Case Study: Staffing in PNW PNW agencies and contract personnel established dedicated contractor representatives (CRNWs) who: –Are trained by the CWT. –Represent specific contract resource, not all contracted resources. –Serve as a contractor’s representative to the IMT. –Monitor agreements while on an incident. –Conduct annual inspections of contractors. –Assigned to crews in fire camps to act as liaison between agencies and contract personnel.

19 Case Study: Cost Sharing in PNW The USFS shares the cost of inspections and record reviews for engine and tender vendors’ employees to: –Increase reliability –Encourage increased qualifications by putting less of cost burden on contract personnel –Increase caliber of equipment and firefighters Vendors pay the MOU providers for records inspections.

20 Case Study: Contract Management in PNW PNW used the “Choosing by Advantage” approach to Best Value contracts which was developed by a multi- region committee of USFS fire and acquisitions personnel. It involves scoring resources differentially based on features and compensated accordingly. Performance evaluations started in 2006 as part of Best Value system. Completed performance evaluations increased from 50 to over 500.

21 Case Study: Technology in PNW The PNW developed EATIS (Equipment and Training Inventory System) which provided the following: A web-based application for managing vendors and their equipment Tracked inspections and employee certification records as well as equipment specs Kept prices down due to competitiveness; vendors could see what others were charging Kept the dispatch priority list public for engine and tender crews, so they knew their likelihood to be called up. Cut down on no. of questions received from contractors. (Also fostered competition and self-policing.) Used as a model to develop new national system being rolled out called VIPR.

22 Case Study: Contract Personnel in PNW Results: Often see cost savings when using contract personnel Perceptions of contract personnel within agency has changed for better; i.e.. more respect both ways Contract personnel viewed as “partners” rather than vendors Both sides see benefits to their relationship (i.e. agency gets qualified yet cost-efficient contractors to supplement their resources and contract personnel get fair compensation and regular work) Have built healthy community of fire professionals consisting of both agency and contract personnel which fosters safer incidents Better communication means better informed contract personnel and less fielding of questions within agency Source: Willie N. Begay, Jr., Fire Operations Specialist for USFS, Reg. 6, and LuAnn Grover-Pugh, Contract Operations Asst. for USFS, Reg. 6

23 Future Developments The future has many challenges. Some will be addressed with technology. Others will require the concerted efforts of agencies, contract personnel and associations to overcome.

24 Future Developments Northern Rockies State and Federal Agencies saved over $1 million after changing to Best Value system Source: Tim Murphy, NRCG Contractor Liaison for the Northern Rockies Coordinating Group

25 Future: Technology Work continues to integrate new technology and standardize Best Value Agreements –Virtual Incident Procurement (VIPR) system National Forest Service Acquisition System Goal: Manage and automate pre-season incident agreements following web-based structure developed by EATIS Standardizes Best Value and promotes competitive pricing Incorporates solicitation, evaluation, and award of agreements all the way through e-signature process Manages modification of agreements as needed Big iron (dozers, excavators, transports, etc.) will be beta-tested using VIPR in Reg. 8 beginning in 2009 and through 2011 when rolled out nationally

26 Future: VIPR Sources: Larry Bowser (Branch Chief) and Cheryl Emch, WO Acquisition Management Fire Equipment, Services & Supplies Acquisition Analysis (FESSAA) Team, USFS; LuAnn Grover, Contract Operations Asst., USFS, Reg New SolicitationsExisting Agreements09 Non-competitive Agreements - Potable water truck, Gray water truck, Handwashing station (trailer mounted) - Waterhandling equipment (engines, tenders, etc.) - Ambulance - Handwashing station (portable), Portable toilets - Single Faller, Faller module - Chipper - Mobile laundry- Clerical support unit- Pack string - GIS Unit - Vehicles with driver - Tents- Motor coach - Refrigerator trailer- Shuttle bus - Mechanics with service truck-Chainsaw/small equipment repair - Mobile sleeper unit - Module office units VIPR will be used in 2009 for new solicitations, existing agreements and non-competitive solicitations which could include: For more information, visit the USFS Incident Procurement page, which will be the portal for delivering all the information about the new IBPA process and VIPR:

27 Agency administrators and contract personnel must: Define their respective roles Determine the appropriate mix of agency/contract resources Create guidelines for how and when to use contract resources Create and distribute training covering basics of working with contract personnel Develop methods of resolving issues Advance professionalism – ex: R. 6 Mutual Respect Letter Agency personnel need to encourage from top down Provide Orientation – How to work with each other, resolve issues, communicate, chain of command, etc. Future: Agency Administrators

28 Future: Contractors Contract personnel and agencies must work to address: –Rising cost of insurance. –Lack of reciprocal agreements across state lines for worker’s compensation. Similar to one currently in use between OR and SD stating contractor’s home state insurance is only one applicable and required –Development of national agreements to promote stability within contractors. –Expand use of contract personnel into other areas like fuels treatment –Ease transition with potential contractor attrition when new technology-related systems are introduced –Prevent perceptions on the part of agencies of job loss resulting from contracting. –The correct interpretation of Best Value Agreements.

29 Contract personnel can obtain support and assistance from a number of resources including: –Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) (www.aptac- us.org)www.aptac- us.org Offices around US to assist contract personnel with government. contracts Services include: Helping contractors navigate web-based methods, finding solicitations, page-by-page review of solicitations, assist with paperwork and proper authorizations “Contractors in Fire” Blog –www.contractorsinfire.comwww.contractorsinfire.com –Created by NWSA –Clearinghouse of information for those in wildland fire suppression and emergency response –Contains news relevant to wildland fire contracting including links to helpful resources Sources of Support

30 National Trade Associations –Provide services to members including tradeshows, educational conferences, agency representation, training opportunities and more. Here are just a few examples: American Helicopter Services and Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA) (http://www.ahsafa.org/)http://www.ahsafa.org/ National Wildfire Suppression Association (http://www.nwsa.us/)http://www.nwsa.us/ Western Forest Fire Services Association (http://www.olwm.com/wffsa/)http://www.olwm.com/wffsa/ International Association of Wildland Fire (http://www.iawfonline.org)http://www.iawfonline.org Helicopter Association International (HAI) (http://www.rotor.com)http://www.rotor.com Sources of Support (cont.)

31 Contract/Agency Outlook Use of contract personnel will continue to grow as agency resources and budgets are tightened and fire seasons expand Safety on incidents will continue to be threatened unless resources are seen as one cohesive community with same goals Need to continue education and awareness to promote this and eliminate lines of diversity

32 Sources The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center would like to thank the following people for their contributions to this report. –Willie N. Begay, Jr., Fire Operations Specialist for USFS, Reg. 6 –John Bennett, Private contractor in Reg. 1 –Doug Bolender, Kalispell PTAC Office –Cheryl Emch, WO Acquisition Management Fire Equipment, Services & Supplies Acquisition Analysis (FESSAA) Team, USFS –Larry Bowser, Branch Chief, Acquisitions Mgmt. Systems for USFS Ft. Collins, CO –Ben Drummond, filmmaker working on a documentary called “Fire in America” –LuAnn Grover-Pugh, Contract Operations Asst. For USFS, Reg. 6 –Neil Hitchock, Deputy to the Asst. Director for Fire Operations, Forest Service, NIFC –Joe King, Private contractor in Reg. 1, President, N. Rockies Wildfire Contractors Assoc. –Debbie Miley, Exec. Dir. For National Wildfire Suppression Assoc. –Tim Murphy, Reg. 1 Contractor Liaison for USFS –Dan Olsen, Reg. 8 Acting Fire Director for USFS –Jim Wills, private contractor and Chair of Reg. 5 Chapter of NWSA Additional Source –Interagency Strategic Plan for Fire Suppression Contracting in PNW, prepared by Blue Ribbon Task Group for Fire Suppression Contracting –www.fs.fed.us/business/incident

33 Wildland Fire LLC For more information: Contact the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center staff: –Paula Nasiatka, Center Manager –David Christenson, Asst. Center Manager –Brenna Macdowell, Support Staff Or visit one of our websites: –www.wildfirelessons.net – Main LLC sitewww.wildfirelessons.net –www.myfirecommunity.net – Community Center for wildland fire professionalswww.myfirecommunity.net –www.imtcenter.net – Team sites, hosted by the LLCwww.imtcenter.net –www.myfirevideos.net – our new video server sitewww.myfirevideos.net


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