You Order, You Pay. La Brea Fire May Usher In New Era Of Interagency Cooperation

The La Brea fire may be offering hints of a new direction in the long standing cooperative agreement between Cal Fire and the Feds. Mike Dubrasich, Executive Director of the Western Institute for Study of the Environment shared with Firefighter Blog readers the following passage in last evening’s 209 report.

“At 1200 the fire entered into Unified Command with Cal Fire because the fire threatens state DPA. The threat is from a slop over off Sierra Madre Road into Foothill Road located in Branch Four. There is a cost share agreement with Cal Fire for “you order you pay”. The slop over Sierra Madre Road in Moon Canyon has the potential to go to the valley floor. Evacuation order issued for the 14 threatened residences on Foothill Road and evacuation warning issued via reverse 911 to the 104 residences in Cottonwood Canyon.”

Mike opines;

“You order you pay? I think that means the USFS is billing CalFire for any actions that CalFire “orders”. Such as the Martin Mars. Who takes responsibility when poorly managed Fed land blows up in a massive fire and threatens private land on the other side of the fence? Evidently CalFire will be billed for suppression actions at the “interface”. The old co-op suppression agreements are burning up along with the landscape.”

Mike may be right, apparently if Cal Fire orders in equipment they will have to pay the entire cost billed by their contractors, even if sloppy work by the Feds requires a state response. I’m not saying the La Brea incident is mismanaged, not suggesting this at all.

Are we entering an era of a leaner, meaner USFS? Getting budget minded all of a sudden? Ms Pincha-Tulley did not just pull this rabbit out of her hat, no this came from a policy change.

As I understand the current policy if a fire runs into another jurisdiction, that jurisdiction must pay their own freight, nothing new here. What is new is the direct wording. I have never heard that phrase before.

I have a feeling Pincha-Tulley wants the 747 and DC-10 Supertanker, (Tanker 910) on scene but doesn’t want to pay. Typically, once aircraft are above a fire air attack keeps track of what drops go where. Say a tanker drops 40 loads, 20 on state land and 20 on Fed land. The drops are billed accordingly.

More often in practice the drops are blurred, whereupon the bill is absorbed by one party or another, or a good guess at a split is attempted. That era may be over. It appears now that if Cal Fire orders equipment they bear the brunt of the costs.

Cal Fire could get tough by calling up the tankers, order drops on their designated area of operation and send them home.

Will we need for an arbitrator at incident bases in the future. The “Incident Legal Office”, or ILO would be inexpensive compared to costs of overhead, equipment, personnel, food, lodging and transportation.

Worth keeping an eye on, let’s see how this plays out.


  • Andrew says:

    Nice information..keep going…

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  • Mike says:

    Here is the link to the news. Apparently Cal Fire can still call them up.
    Cal Fire Cancels Tanker 910
    Thanks for the heads up Mike.

  • Mike says:

    Thanks Mike.

    Regarding the Tanker 910 contract. I must have been sleeping when that news hit.

    I cannot believe they canceled the contract. WTF?

    ….and we know the Feds hate supertankers. What happens to these weapons now?

    What armies in history ever gave up on their biggest guns.

    I cannot believe it.

  • Mike D. says:

    Right on the money, Capt. Mike!!!!

    Add that CalFire ws just handed a $27 million budget cut, and had to dissolve the DC-10 contract because of it.

    And the heavy hazard (the fuels aflame) are arguably the result of negligent land management on the part of the Feds.

    I'd love to see CA sue the Feds for negligence. They probably can't sue for extortion, but I'd like to see CA try it anyhow, since it look like that's the game the Feds are playing.