I agree about Firescope. The effort began with 1972 legislation from the U.S. Congress. Firescope originally stood for Firefighting REsources in Southern California Organized for Potential Emergencies. It now stands for Firefighting RESources in California Organized for Potential Emergencies. Given that the ICS is a modular system where the modules that build an incident organization are added in response to the specific needs of the incident. These modules have evolved over time, at least since I first worked a fire in southern California using the early versions of ICS in 1979.
Those of us who have studied fire ecology have known that fire exclusion in fire dependent ecosystems was going to cause a radically different situation for fire managers and land management personnel by the end of the 20th century. It was predicted in scientific literature of the late 40’s, the 50’s and 60’s. In my case I started reading this literature in 1968 and have closely followed it since. We know that this prediction came true, but what this research did not predict is a warming climate, which has added an overwhelming crisis from what was just a serious crisis. Just as the ICS evolved to meet the challenges that we began to experience circa 1987 to 2000, it will evolve to fit the overwhelming crisis we have obviously entered. The evolution of the system must include agreement by all parties to it, in other words, the hallmark of the system, an interagency standardized approach. That is what concerns me about the differences in very large fire organizations by Cal Fire and the feds.
I’m an ICS nerd as well. I even had the opportunity to work in the same office as Bob Irwin, the acknowledged “father of the ICS,” who was the first coordinator of Firescope. A little less known is his transfer to become the FMO of the Gifford Pinchot NF in 1979 in order to escape the stress of getting 6 agencies to agree on one system and leave their own long held methods in favor of something new. He wanted as we all say, “go out to pasture” for the rest of our career. Then St. Helens started to make noise following his move to Washington. The State of Washington’s large incident response to Mt. Saint Helens was not well enough developed at the time to handle it. Irwin became the de facto head of the federal, state and local response to this event. I chided Irwin that he was the most qualified person in the country to be the Mt. Saint Helens IC. He grumbled about his “misfortune” and stated that anyone else could have handled it as well. I felt lucky that I was able to spend some time with him and help him with the project he was working on, which was an interagency plan for handling volcanic activity in the Long Valley Caldera in Mono County.
The Camp Fire is beyond what I envisioned when the prediction of 100,000 acre stand replacement fires becoming commonplace by the end of the 20th century that science began to predict in the 1950’s. I don’t think any of use would have believed that the destruction of over 500-1000 homes in one fire would become so common. Having over 8,000 structures destroyed in one fire is a shock this baby boomer, who started reading forestry research while in high school, can conceive of. This in light of the fires in the Mendocino Complex of 2017 and the Thomas fire/flood of later that year as well as the Carr Fire of this year. It is more of a shock than I can describe to anyone.