National Logistics Workshop 2011 Remarks of George Bacon, Idaho State Forester

National Logistics Workshop 2011
Remarks of George Bacon, Idaho State Forester
One major issue for state government in large fire management has always been
cost containment. Many states, like Idaho, do not budget for wild fire. Instead, they use
deficiency warrants (i.e. have authority to spend money on fire suppression) which their
legislatures have to pay back. Idaho’s fire suppression bill can vary from 3 to 21 million
dollars in any given year.
As tight as states have been in the past, cost containment is extremely critical now.
The recent economic downturn has devastated state budgets. Health and human service
programs are being slashed, let alone state natural resource agencies. Funding issues are
You must also remember that most states are merely initial attack organizations. If
a fire escapes initial attack, the states generally do not have the resources to manage a large
incident. Many states in the west, like Idaho, classify all wild fires as a “public nuisance”.
All wild fires must be summarily attacked and extinguished, usually before the start of the
next day’s burning period, about 10:00am the day following a start. Anyone who starts a
wild fire can be held liable for all costs, and the states do pursue billing negligent parties
An incident management team is usually ordered to help manage the incident when
a fire escapes initial attack. Logistic Chiefs are key to ensuring money is spent wisely, right
from the beginning. Ordering the right resources to get the job done is critical on wild fires
within state jurisdictions.
States will generally want an Incident Business Advisor on the fire to help control
costs and document that all spending is necessary to properly manage the incident. This
can help protect the overhead team from criticism later, especially from state politicians.
Where spending is necessary, using local resources is also very important to states,
both financially and politically. It is always best to use local, qualified contractors
whenever possible.
Toward the end of a tough fire season, it is easy to become fatigued and drift away
from pinching pennies. Please always remember to be cost-conscience on any incident in a
state or local jurisdiction.