<b>FRONT LINES:</b>  A hot-shot crew mops up remnants of the September 2009 Paradise Fire.

Paul Wellman

FRONT LINES: A hot-shot crew mops up remnants of the September 2009 Paradise Fire.

Firefighter Force Cut as Fire Season Ignites

Hot Shot Crews All But Eliminated at Vandenberg

Friday, May 31, 2013
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With the smoke just settling from the White Fire, Santa Barbara’s first serious backcountry inferno this year, word leaked out that 20 of the 27 Hot Shots stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base — highly trained, elite firefighters — have been laid off and 57 of the civilian firefighters on the base have been placed on furlough. Translated, that means those 57 firefighters will be forced to take one day off a week, without pay, for the next 11 weeks.

Congressmember Lois Capps sounded the alarm with a blistering press release on Thursday. Immediately triggering the force reduction is what’s known as “sequestration” — the mandatory widespread federal budget cuts forced by the inability of Republicans and Democrats to come to terms regarding the nation’s deficit. But Capps’s press spokesperson Ashley Schapitl noted that even before sequestration, firefighting agencies defending the Los Padres National Forest had been struggling to make do with less.

“It’s one less crew available for the initial attack,” said Carrie Landon, the new fire chief of the Los Padres National Forest, of the loss of Hot Shots. For Landon, just four weeks on the job, this week’s White Fire — which chewed up nearly 2,000 acres by Paradise Road — was truly a baptism by fire. Landon described the Hot Shots as “a very elite hand crew, the most experienced in the nation.” She said the Forest Service has two Hot Shot crews of its own assigned to the Los Padres National Forest, adding that reinforcements are possible upon demand. But Landon’s public information officer Andrew Madsen noted that the Vandenberg Hot Shots have played a significant role in fighting every major backcountry blaze he can remember and were always represented on the incident command teams.

This loss compounds the decision by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department to discontinue its own hand crew of 25 seasonal firefighters last year because of budget pressures. “You feel the loss,” said County Fire Chief Mike Dyer. “You feel like you’re going to a knife fight armed with a butter knife. You can still do it, but it will take you a little longer.” By that Dyer meant the resources would ultimately be made available, just not as swiftly as if they were already there. “It weakens your ability to control and suppress the initial outbreak.”

Ground crews are one of many “tools” dispatched to fight forest fires, along with helicopters, air tankers, bulldozers, and fire engines. Ground crews get as close and personal with the flames as deemed safe given prevailing wind patterns, cutting lines and fire breaks necessary for containment. Some ground crews establish what are known as “spike camps” near the fire and remain embedded there for as long as a week. They are especially crucial in tough terrain not accessible by truck.

Nationally, the Forest Service took a $50 million hit in its firefighting funding because of sequestration, meaning 500 fewer temporary firefighters and 50 fewer engines. But Chief Landon of the Forest Service said those cuts have not affected the Los Padres National Forest. She said 300 firefighters — both permanent and temporary — have been assigned to the Los Padres National Forest for the fire season. Of those, she said, 115 are temporary. There was a slight glitch initially, she said, in ordering the full retinue of temporary firefighters, but that was solved by requisitioning them through “emergency” hires.

Chief Dyer gave the Forest Service high marks for its assertive reaction to the White Fire, saying he’s seen a significant increase in how aggressively the agency has responded to forest fires in the four years he’s been on the job. “I saw a robust response,” he said. In other parts of the country, forest officials are inclined to simply let some fires go. But given the high value — and proximity — of Santa Barbara’s real estate, that’s not an option. “This isn’t Montana,” Dyer said. “You can’t just let it burn out there. If you do, it will become a problem.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Let's instead fire the people responsible for this decision and rehire the firefighters. INSANE.

Bet there's enough dollars for Fiesta and a buncha crap.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2013 at 5:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You two are giving me a headache with your rational thoughts. Stop it. I suppose somebody else will say something such as "we have all this money to prop up foreign dictators but we don't have enough money to hire firefighters."...wait, I've been saying that...

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2013 at 5:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Poor firefighter. A little cranky after our afternoon on duty nap? The BOS already gave fire money from Prop 172 and other funds. Unlike fire, law enforcement in this county has no trouble justifying their numbers. Those men and women run all day with a few minutes of down time and get forced into massive amounts of overtime due to short staffing, and that's true with every agency in the county.

If you quit chasing ambulances to pad your numbers you'd probably save a ton on diesel fuel. Sleep less work more like everyone else.

Validated (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2013 at 7:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Invalidated once again by reality poor fire and rescue hater.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2013 at 8:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Furloughing working people to address budgetary issues is simply not the right approach. And fire fighters? Stupid idea.

There are so many programs or tax cuts that should be eliminated to balance the budget. As a civil servant, I see so many ways in my workplace. Things like building renovations to reduce energy costs; allowing us to buy hand held bar code scanners to perform inventory; revising supervisor to worker ratios from 1 - 6 to 1 - 10 or trimming how much we accumulate in sick or annual leave.

Spirit walker: while I don't personally like drugs, I would support your idea if if 50% of the proceeds went to drug abuse treatment and 50% went to the state or federal debt!

passagerider (anonymous profile)
June 1, 2013 at 10:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Dang pr, with %'s like that, we'd be in the black in a matter of a few years. PS, all that panga weed is shipped to other parts of the country. Imagine the inflow of cash the crop would generate for this state if it were legal. Imagine the power that cash would generate in politics. Kinda like oil (if only that was illegal, imagine).

spacey (anonymous profile)
June 1, 2013 at 2:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The problem is that they don't have a deep pocketed union on their side.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
June 1, 2013 at 5:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

~ Now that the wars in foreign countries are about to end, maybe we can turn our US soldiers into 'hot shots' at home? ~

Ellwood (anonymous profile)
June 1, 2013 at 7:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Spiritwalker put down the pipe......

FIRST this story is about financial greed of firefighters. Whoops I mean furloughed firefighters. Please, your weed induced blabbering is nauseating.

If the political wizards in office knew what they were actually doing they would have the military (Privates, Corporals, Sgt's & Officers) running their own Fire Dept's on base not civilians.. Further more this whole "Sequestration" is Obama's baby!! Don't blame anybody but him. He played his hand and lost.

Second, I love Egotistical Dyers comments. Hey Dyer, get rid of your duplication/taxpayer costing paramedic program that costs us millions each year and you can have your hand crew (Boots on the ground) team that actually works. Why have paramedics on a fire truck that can't transport?

The ambulance company in SB (AMR) costs taxpayers nothing but your bloated department with paramedics costs us plenty. Why is the county competing with the private sector that is providing a service that costs me nothing unless I use the service??? Stupid is as stupid does I guess.

You want more "Fire fighters" get rid of the duplication in services already being provided by someone else for free....

Oh, and BTW, for those of you that have taken an ambulance ride do you want to know why the bill is so high? Here's the scoop, the county sets the rates but also through the arm twisting of the fire chiefs in SB they through in a hidden tax for "First responders fees"!!! Yes ladies and gentlemen you are being double billed by fire departments. Spiritwalker put that in your pipe and smoke it.....

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 7:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Apparently you have amnesia or you hit your head when you had that seizure. And no, I hate needles and would never stick myself with a needle just to put crap in my veins...


Please post your tin foil hat propaganda theory and evidence that these "Panga" boats are planted??? Don't you realize that to make this possible it would take hundreds of people, stealth mother ships and willing illegal aliens to drive these boats to make this happen?? And which federal agency is responsible for this "Propaganda" photo operation? You do know Obama is the president and governor Moonbeam is Calif.'s governor don't you? Again, put down the pipe...

Also, these "Panga" boats are driven onto the beach so they can off-load their drugs or people. It's called the tidal surge. It goes up and down. But THAT would take a "double digit IQ" to understand...

For my last attempt to get a stoner to actually comprehend what one writes here I will try again. AMR DOES NOT SET THE RATES THE COUNTY DOES!!!! If you have a complaint call the county and your local fire department and ask them why the rates are high and why fire departments are entitled to a "FIRST RESPONDER FEE"!!! You must also ask the county and fire departments why they sent 8 fireman to a medical call. So easy a caveman can do it....

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 9:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You two should get a room already.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I see you are also off your meds..

Let me see, wasn't it you who first stated, "you must have a heroin needle stuck in your arm." Yes, supporting evidence would be nice for a change. I'm not the one who is fabricating stories of "Propaganda" about "Planted" boats all up and down the coast. You are..

Second, everything I've said is supported by asking the county about MY FACTS... But, then again, that would take one's ability to coherently dial a phone, ask coherent intelligent questions and be able to understand facts not fiction.

Take another hit from that bong. You are the one who SUPPORTS MJ read your own posts. It might help in making sense as to why YOU started this thread that was ABOUT FIREFIGHTERS not Black Ops planting PANGA's......

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 12:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think you need to change that tin foil hat you must be receiving to much radiation or your "Medical marijuana" is to strong....

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 12:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Some priceless crack there. Jeez man woman whatever you are from whatever planet. Just kick back, pay the bills and let sane people run things. Firefighting isn't a hobby, people die doing it.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 12:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Legalize and tax if you must marijuana, then we'll have money for firefighters.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 1:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes I know spiritwalker don't ask anybody just make up your own gibberish post it here and call it good, right?

Funny how it is you who wants "Facts" from me, fails to ask questions from another source other than me because you obviously don't believe me. You just want to ridicule me, cops the government, anybody else spiritwalker?? Please point ME in the direction where I can corroborate your gibberish so then I will be able to make up my own mind as to your "Propaganda"... Not unlike you who will say, "And finally, if you want to pretend your smart, why do you post nonsensical gibberish like: "...everything I've said is supported by asking the county about MY FACTS..." What in the world does that mean?" That means ask questions from the people who write the laws, rules, regulations and sets the rates for us taxpayers. No spiritwalker I'm not smart I just know when to call BS on absolute garbage being posted on this thread from people like you. You have no facts to base your incoherent rants on anything you've said. If you did you would have posted the links, articles or video of your findings.

Spiritwalker, you where lied to in school. Everybody is not equal. You see, there really are genius', smart people, average people, not so average people and people like you who got a trophy just for showing up to school...

I really hope you get that toaster, you deserve it. Peace out....

Priceless (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Looks like it's time for a pie fight.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2013 at 1:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good grief. Isn't anybody else pissed off at Congress?

mtndriver (anonymous profile)
June 4, 2013 at 9:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Pangas and glaciers are two of the biggest threats we face on the West Coast.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 5, 2013 at 10:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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