Prior to 2020, there was certainly a buddy system element involved, although not an official policy. Brand name has some value in that you know who and what you are getting when you order a specific resource. In 2020, CalFire went to a purely closest resource ordering methodology. In that type of system, if you are an approved vendor and your location is closer that the next person, you will be ordered. Additionally, as Ehoss84 outlined, the SPM (Supplier Participation Manual) is a must read in its entirety prior to really beginning the process. Location choice is a critical element of the new CF process.
The FS R5 procurement significantly changed their process and allocation and in reality is not adhering to the VIPER process, which you should be familiar with as R3 does use that process. These changes caused huge voids in resources for FS controlled incidents in the throughout the entire State in the 2020 season. If, and there is heavy emphasis on if, R5 modifies their practices for 2021, there would be plenty of opportunity on Fed fires. Right now, that is a real gamble as there are a truckload of CWN providers sitting in the wings that were locked out of being able to participate in 2020, who are already on the various Forests already.
Just a point of clarification, there were two sets of UOP for the broad scope of the August Complex, the vast majority of the footprint being in the FS side of things on the Mendocino NF. The CF component, which had it’s own ordering, Team and infrastructure did have a very large footprint however, it was no where near a 50/50 split between the two agencies.
Given the processes of the two agencies, I would still recommend starting with CF if the business analysis justifies out for you. When you have had an opportunity to get a foothold, then look to expand into the FS side, again, provided they get their CWN procurement chaos cleaned up.
Everything summed up, the necessity of studying the CF SPM cannot be stressed enough before you make any decisions.