Featured Post

Homeland Security: The Sworn Duty of Public Officials

Homeland Security: The Sworn Duty of Public Officials     The United States has a unique position amongst the countries of the world;...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wildfire Response Management: California 2009 Incident Review

Wildfire Response Management: California 2009 Incident Review
California's history of dealing with forest fires led local agencies to conduct studies in the 1960's with the goal of establishing a response management system; the system created was “called “Firefighting Resources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies,” and became known as FIRESCOPE. The meaning was recently changed to FIrefighting RESources of California, Organized for Potential Emergencies (FIRESCOPE)” (Morgan, Mosser, & Paker, 2011, p.6). The creation of FIRESCOPE recognizes that “addressing wildfire as a threat is also a major management and policy issue” (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Fire and Resource Assessment Program, 2010, p. 95). In 2009, The California Emergency Management Agency entered into an agreement “between the State of California Emergency Management Agency, hereinafter referred to as Cal EMA; the State of California , Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; hereinafter referred to as CAL FIRE, the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region; the USDI Bureau of Land Management, California Office; the USDI National Park Service, Pacific West Region; USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Southwest Region, and USDI Bureau of Indian Affairs, Pacific Region”(Cal EMA, 2009, p.1). This agreement established that “Cal EMA is responsible to provide for systematic mobilization, organization and operation of necessary fire and rescue resources”Cal EMA, 2009, p.2). Cal EMA delegates some responsibility of coordination to Cal FIRE. “It is because of these cooperative efforts that you may see fire engines and fire fighters from different agencies at the scene of an emergency, working under a unified command relationship” (Cal FIRE, 2014. p.1). In 2009, a higher than normal incidence of wildfires put these responsibilities to the test. “The Los Angeles Station Fire began on August 26, 2009, and reached 100% containment on October 16, 2009. The fire burned 160,577 acres and destroyed 209 structures, including 89 homes, making it the largest fire recorded in Los Angeles County and tenth largest fire recorded in California history” (Squire, Chidester, & Raby, 2011, p. 464).
Cal EMA evaluated that they had achieved successful response in the following areas; “efficient resource deployment; effective fire suppression and control, notification and alert, and sheltering operations; and well organized and rapid communications and coordination between state agencies and local governments, and state/federal partnership” (Cal EMA, n.d., p. 4). These areas of success, particularly in communications and coordination, indicate that crisis management expectations and responsibilities were clear prior to the fires. This is important as areas of responsibility in normal situations may be confused in a wildfire incident; “The boundary of a wildfire constantly moves, sometimes very swiftly as it continues its path of destruction”(Morgan, Mosser, & Paker, 2011, p. 26). It appears that FIRESCOPE and it's implementation also benefited from previous experience. “These lessons suggest that the most important advances in fire safety in this region are to come from advances in fire prevention, fire preparedness, and land-use planning that includes fire hazard patterns”(Keeley, Safford, Fotheringham, Franklin, & Moritz, 2009).
However, Cal EMA also identified areas that needed improvement:
There is no clear understanding of the requirements that must be met by State and/or local
government agencies for establishing a cleanup level for asbestos.
Joint commands between the USFS and the Los Angeles County Fire Department were only
established when the spreading Station Fire became an imminent danger to foothill
communities. This allowed the Station Fire to grow so quickly that firefighters could not
gain control of the spreading fire early in the response.
Local agencies were slow in requesting assistance for initiating fire recovery operations
Current data management tools, especially the Response Information Management System
(RIMS), are inadequate to meet the demands of today’s emergency management needs. In
addition, Los Angeles County’s Emergency Management Information System had technical
problems and their Incident and Event information could not be uploaded to share the
information with management.
Several state and local agencies still have a need for additional SEMS/RIMS training for
position specific roles and responsibilities, as it relates to the SOC, REOC, and the
Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This training should include on-line courses for
agencies without the resources to send personnel to training. (Cal EMA, n.d., p. 5)
Recommendations for resolving these issues include:
  • Additional training in FIRESCOPE and NIMS procedure
  • A review of technological tools, including management applications and central data hosting/reporting servers
  • Periodic command drills to be conducted by Cal FIRE for a better understanding of local agency communications and control response
These recommendations can be carried out without additional costs to the participant agencies; however, a major weakness involved in this consideration is the time loss of personnel to primary training duties, or possibly to conducting their primary duties.


Cal EMA. (n.d.). California Emergency Management Agency 2009 Los Angeles County Wildfires after action / corrective action report: Executive summary. Retrieved February 6, 2015 from

Cal EMA. (2009).Agreement for local government fire and emergency assistance to the State of California and Federal fire agencies between State of California, California Emergency Management Agency; State of California, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region; USDI Bureau of Land Management, California State Office;
USDI National Park Service, Pacific West Region; USDI Fish and Wildlife service, Pacific Southwest Region; and USDI Bureau of Indian Affairs, Pacific Region. Retrieved February 8, 2015 from http://www.calema.ca.gov/FireandRescue/Documents/Reimbursement%20Documents/2009-2013%20CFAA%20Updated%20Exhibits%20published%20June%2026%202013.pdf

Cal FIRE. (2014). Cooperative Emergency Response. Retrieved February 6, 2015 from http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/fact_sheets/CoopResponse.pdf

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Fire and Resource Assessment Program. (2010). California’s Forests and Rangelands: 2010 Assessment. Retrieved February 6, 2015 from http://frap.fire.ca.gov/data/assessment2010/pdfs/california_forest_assessment_nov22.pdf

Calkin, D., & Gebert, K. (2009). Economics of wildland fire management. Retrieved from http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/37116

Keeley, J. E., Safford, H., Fotheringham, C. J., Franklin, J., & Moritz, M. (2009). The 2007 Southern California wildfires: Lessons in complexity. Journal of Forestry, 107(6), 287–296. Retrieved February 6, 2015 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/220781115?pq-origsite=summon

Morgan, S., Mosser, M, and Paker, P. (2011). Wildfires in California Analysis of the Incident Command System and FIRESCOPE. Paper presented at the 2011 Cambridge Business & Economics Conference. Cambridge, UK Retrieved February 6, 2015 from http://www.gcbe.us/2011_CBEC/data/Sheron%20Morgan,%20Marian%20Mosser,%20Phillip%20Paker.doc.

Squire, B., Chidester, C., & Raby, S. (2011). Medical events during the 2009 Los Angeles County Station Fire: Lessons for wildfire EMS planning. Prehospital Emergency Care, 15(4), 464–472. doi:10.3109/10903127.2011.598607

No comments:

Post a Comment