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  1. #1
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    Default wildland fire dussiness

    I have been really concidering starting my own business. I am being told I am crazy by people I know. I really have done a lot of thinking about it. I would like to buy 5 engines ( a strike team). I have been thinking about doing this in Nor California. My thoughts are contracting with the Feds, state and Insurance companies. I included insurance companies because in California there is a lot of homes in areas they dont belong. Is it moraly correct to charge people to prevent their homes / business from burning in a forest fire. I have been wondering what the ethics of that would be. The start up costs of this is VERY HUG 2 Mill. I am researching right now on government loans / grants. What is your thoughts on this? Is it right to do this kind of work and any ideas on how to start this would greatly be appricated too. Thanks Jim wildfire1@home.com


  2. #2
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    o

  3. #3
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    ok, Just some thoughts based on people that I have met over the past few years and things I have learned from them. First off start small, start with one or two type 6 engines and try to have two crews for each one. The reason for the two crews is that it gives you the ability to keep your engines on a fire and rotate the crew if they go to the normal 3 week limit. Learn the in's and out's of the contracts that are usually set up with either the US Forest service, BLM, BIA, or probably in your case CDF. Contracts must specify if engines come with crews, what maintenance the contractor is responsable for, if they just want the engines and not the crew how much per day for the engine, and if the engine is going to be trailered somewhere who is picking up that expense. If you have never dealt with federal paperwork I suggest that you take S-260 & S-261 to become more familiar. Just remember taking things one step at a time is a lot easier than getting in over your head. Good luck in your endeavor I hope that you do well.
    +Be Safe, See ya on the Fireline.+

  4. #4
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    Hey Thanks for the help. I have had a few season with the forest service. I know there paper work if long winded. I have been threwing this idea around for sometime now. I am a little concerned about the ethics of charging the homeowners and issurance companies for structure protection. I have a home in the woods and know why people build there. On the other hand I realise that my house will burn some day. It is the nature of the woods. I have to find out some more information on getting signed up with the feds and state. I have thought about building the station in Truckee on highway 80. It gives me access to North, East and West. It is central to about 4 forests too. There is only one other guestion I have Does anyone know how to get government contracts for project work? Thanks again for your imput.

  5. #5
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    I agree with WLNDFF/EMT_NH regarding starting small. Another idea to consider would be contracting out on Rx burns. This might be the thing to get you through the slow fire seasons.
    A dept. I volunteer with in my home town averages sends out an engine and crew as a resource each year. It does bring in some extra revenue for the deptartment. How ever, we only average 3 to 5 incidents per year. We also have mutual aid agreements with USFS since they border a large majority of our district.
    You also need the availibilty for qualified people to operate those engines. I.E. engine boss's or crew boss's, Strike Team Leader etc.
    These are a few things I can think of. I'm sure there are people more knowledgeable.

    Good luck.

  6. #6
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    I understand your concern about the ethics of charging for fire protection. The insurance carriers charge the customers for fire protection, in Texas the fire departments can charge up to $500 per incident and not have the homeowners policy effected.

    You might consider the CAFS equipment for your type 1-6 engines, they get a premium. CAFS also now qualify for an ISO rate reduction for entities that use them for initial attack on structure fires.

    The Navy uses CAFS for their new warfare decontamination agent and it works on pesticides too.

    You might consider the oil eating microbes in the CAFS solution for bioremediation of spills, this is pretty high dollar profit.

    I hope this is usefull information for you.
    Mark Cummins

  7. #7
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    I think the idea is great! But I agree with starting out small and working your way up.
    See if it will work, then if it takes off and grant money help, then add and engine, and so on and so on. Good luck in whatever you deside to do.

    I also would like to say that I have a great respect for all of you wildland firefighters. You have a very physical and dangerous job and it takes a special person to do it. May God keep you all safe in the forests.

    Bobby Norton
    City of Washington Fire Dept.
    Washington, Indiana
    Local 495

  8. #8
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    I too have thought about doing what your doing and I have to say go for it!!! I dont know all the paper work that goes with gov. contracting but I do work fires as part of a NPS fire crew. We put our lives on the line to save other peoples property, the bottom line. As far as the ethics of charging home owners, thats a hard one. I guess it all depends on who's fire it is, if its county state or federal. It seems unethical to charge a homeowner if you're on a contracted fire assignment already. Unless the landowner contracts you to protect his property it wouldn't be ethical to charge that person.

  9. #9
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    Thank you every one for you comments and your information. I really am going to pursue this. I cannot stand working in the office much longer. Does any one know how or who to contact to get your business registered with the Forest Service in order to be called to forest fires? I have to run but thank you all for your help. Be safe!
    Jim

  10. #10
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    Well I am in the process of writing a business plan. I hope to complete that in the next month or two. It is a lot of work. Does any one have any statistics on losses to home do to forest fires. I need to add that to my business plan. Thanks again.
    Jim

  11. #11
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    Jim - contact your local CDF HQ. They should be able to give you some stats for state lands, and maybe even adjoining federal lands as well.

    Good Luck
    IACOJ
    Stopping controlled burning DOES NOT stop the burning, only the control!
    http://www.wy.blm.gov/fireuse/fums.htm

  12. #12
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    I know someone who has done this. A couple things to consider. First where we live the USFS does not contract type 6 engines, all they contract are water tenders. Type threes are more in demand than type 6's and are a better investment in the long run. Contracts are available through AZ state but the odds of being called out depend upon the political environment of the state and the funds available. Also the state seems more likely to call on Departments with contracts then privates. I don't think CDF has the need to call for assistance very often as they are a huge entity and have a very good mutual aid program from what little I know of them.
    Insurance is brutal as you have to carry a million liability and workmans comp etc.
    Employees are scarce, if you know someone who is red carded and can leave on a moments notice and doe'snt mind working two or three weeks a year, great but it's embarassing to turn down an assighnment because you have no crew.
    Just some things to think about I think the person I know went out for 14 days this year and did a little better than broke even.

  13. #13
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    Greetings All,
    I'll preface this with everything I going to say is based on operating in USFS R1 and with Montana DNRC - and it's just my opinion.
    I own and operate a Mercedes Unimog U1200 as a USFS certified Type V engine. My host forest is the Flathead National(FNF) - they are my dispatching point of contact and in turn present me as a resource to NIFC.
    Prior to the 2000 season there were lots of different types of contracts - now on the FNF you are contracted "wet" & operated. This means that you are responsible for fuel & crew. Remember that dispatchers are looking for "closest & cheapest" first. Up here the DNRC doesn't have much call for Type III engines but in an area that is mostly W/U Interface that would be different.
    The suggestion to provide two crews per engine is valid in regions that fight fire around the clock. Double shifting doesn't mean double dollars though - it does mean trying to keep twice as many qualified employees available when the phone isn't ringing. Some areas require a three man crew so look into the requirements in your location.
    It is my experience that insurance companies are a not going to be interested in talking with a contractor and the local agent probably isn't in any position to make any deal that the national underwriter would have to pay for... They figure that the "government" is supposed deal with putting out those pesky forest fires.
    As for working for individual homeowners - yikes - let's see, my house is about to burn I'll say, do or sign anything including a contract with Acme Fire Suppression. Now as Acme Fire Suppression do you attempt to contract with home owners prior to the incident or at the incident? Either way you are now talking about serious legal fees to draw up a contract that protects you from things like non-payment as well as liability for, you guessed it, a lost structure. Then you get to talk with your insurance agent about a REALLY expensive policy. My suggestion would be to stick with a contract with your local Forest - again this is just my opinion.
    As a USFS or DNRC contractor I carry commercial insurance on my engine and pay HEAVY workman's comp - 30 cents on the dollar. Starting up a new company in an arena that makes most insurance agents and bankers freak out was tough. I went looking for some assistance. In my case, joining the Montana Logging Association allowed me to join a Workman's Comp Pool and gave me access to all their business assistance folks.
    I was very happy to get three 14's this season - considering we didn't get under contract until early August. I was very fortunate to have hired a former Flathead Hotshot crew member that consistently made us look good - and taught me a lot. We made a point of always having line gear on and tool in hand when we were out of the engine. Remember as a contractor the goal is to get MORE WORK! To this end we fought fire aggressively (read, Sure we'll plumb that 6000 foot hose lay. Sure we'll roll hose. Yep, we'll mop up those spot fires) but provided for our safety first.
    At this point the issue that I'm working on is additional training. As a contractor there don't seem to be many opportunities to be involved in training exercises or classes. If any of you have info on training opportunities in the northwest this winter I'd love to here about it.
    Hope this helps,
    Greetings All,
    I'll preface this with everything I going to say is based on operating in USFS R1 and with Montana DNRC - and it's just my opinion.
    I own and operate a Mercedes Unimog U1200 as a USFS certified Type V engine. My host forest is the Flathead National(FNF) - they are my dispatching point of contact and in turn present me as a resource to NIFC.
    Prior to the 2000 season there were lots of different types of contracts - now on the FNF you are contracted "wet" & operated. This means that you are responsible for fuel & crew. Remember that dispatchers are looking for "closest & cheapest" first. Up here the DNRC doesn't have much call for Type III engines but in an area that is mostly W/U Interface that would be different.
    The suggestion to provide two crews per engine is valid in regions that fight fire around the clock. Double shifting doesn't mean double dollars though - it does mean trying to keep twice as many qualified employees available when the phone isn't ringing. Some areas require a three man crew so look into the requirements in your location.
    It is my experience that insurance companies are a not going to be interested in talking with a contractor and the local agent probably isn't in any position to make any deal that the national underwriter would have to pay for... They figure that the "government" is supposed deal with putting out those pesky forest fires.
    As for working for individual homeowners - yikes - let's see, my house is about to burn I'll say, do or sign anything including a contract with Acme Fire Suppression. Now as Acme Fire Suppression do you attempt to contract with home owners prior to the incident or at the incident? Either way you are now talking about serious legal fees to draw up a contract that protects you from things like non-payment as well as liability for, you guessed it, a lost structure. Then you get to talk with your insurance agent about a REALLY expensive policy. My suggestion would be to stick with a contract with your local Forest - again this is just my opinion.
    As a USFS or DNRC contractor I carry commercial insurance on my engine and pay HEAVY workman's comp - 30 cents on the dollar. Starting up a new company in an arena that makes most insurance agents and bankers freak out was tough. I went looking for some assistance. In my case, joining the Montana Logging Association allowed me to join a Workman's Comp Pool and gave me access to all their business assistance folks.
    I was very happy to get three 14's this season - considering we didn't get under contract until early August. I was very fortunate to have hired a former Flathead Hotshot crew member that consistently made us look good - and taught me a lot. We made a point of always having line gear on and tool in hand when we were out of the engine. Remember as a contractor the goal is to get MORE WORK! To this end we fought fire aggressively (read, Sure we'll plumb that 6000 foot hose lay. Sure we'll roll hose. Yep, we'll mop up those spot fires) but provided for our safety first.
    At this point the issue that I'm working on is additional training. As a contractor there don't seem to be many opportunities to be involved in training exercises or classes. If any of you have info on training opportunities in the northwest this winter I'd love to here about it.
    Hope this helps,
    DR

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