Friday, October 16, 2015

Incident commander loses post after firefighter-rancher confrontation

The incident commander of a team of firefighters who left a line because of their fear of unhappy local landowners has lost his post. Chris Ourada has been taken off the Great Basin Type 1 Incident Management Team, one of 15 elite units brought in to manage large fires and other national emergencies, such as hurricanes. Ourada, of Idaho Falls, remains in his post with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, but will not serve as an incident management team commander. Ourada declined to comment, but in an email obtained by the Statesman confirmed that he lost the post. “This is going to be hard so I will just say it. Today my Type 1 qualifications were revoked so I will no longer be a part of Great Basin Team 2,” he wrote to colleagues. “If you have questions, you can probably contact your section chiefs and they can fill you in.” The move came after a regional Forest Service board reviewed his handling of an incident during the Tepee Fire near Riggins in early September. A Hotshot crew had walked off the line after landowners and federal law enforcement officers had faced off with pistols on their hips. Ourada and other fire managers later met with the landowners and agreed to dig a “check line” to keep the fire from burning onto the private land. But the Hotshots who had originally said they felt threatened by the landowners refused to do the work, despite Ourada’s direct order. Another crew built the line, but one of the original Hotshot members filed the report saying that Ourada had ordered them into an unsafe situation...more

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