USFS suspending contractors?


I’m hearing rumors about a good many of the USFS contractors have been suspended from their CWN contracts because they refused to lower rates. Does anyone have any information on this?? The rumor is that som forests lost almost all their contract dozers.


From the FS dozer page
If you are a USFS Heavy Equipment vendor for R5 please login to your VIPR account and see if you were suspended! I know of 5 contractors totaling 10 dozers in the Sierra National Forest that were because we failed to lower our Heavy Equipment Rates to match CAL Fire Rates. If you misunderstood the rollover modification as many of us did thinking it was for “Transports” then we need to speak out ASAP!
The ROSS dispatch list was updated 7-27-19 at 23:39 Lots of good vendors are gone due to this because our CO feels he’s the judge and jury of “Fair & Reasonable Pricing!”
He will not take phone calls. He will not respond to emails.
Matthew Gagnon R5 CO


Seems to be the only way they will listen these days.

Fire at will…


He is not the only CO from that Forest that has thought he could change contracts at will.
It may be a legal issue with agreements being altered when they only allow renewals every three years.

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I am in VIPR, but in a different vendor category. I did receive the ‘R5 Incident Procurement Newsletter’, Summer 2019. I don’t know if there is a web site to access this newsletter. Page 3 makes notice to ‘Miscellaneous Heavy Equipment’, which I don’t know if that encompasses Dozers. Bullet points note 1) “No agreements will be awarded for this equipment type this year. 2) Incident Only EERAs will fill the needs of this equipment type on incidents this year. 3) FS has a list that includes vendors who responded to the cancelled solicitation, who could be called when needed. 4) There will be no DPL. COs will select vendors on need and best value, with mention of fair and reasonable rates within current CalFire rates. (This is condensed from the page 3 information.)
My experience in VIPR leads me to believe it is exponentially more complex than it really needs to be. Its grossly laden with bureaucratic burdens that certainly could be simplified. ‘Nuf Said before I add more paragraphs substantiating my lead-in sentences to this paragraph.


It appears the Forest Service with all its changes could be fighting their fires this year with their underpaid staff, and filling in with CalFire which we all know is NOT inexpensive. U.S.F.S. has a wildcat in one hand and a wolf in the other while wearing a pork chop around their neck !
They must be feeling very self-destructive this year. :thinking:


I have no dog in this fight but I want to point out the way it used to be in R6 and might still be.

Every contractor would submit their bid at the beginning of the season for what they were willing to work for.

If you submitted a low bid you would get called first and if you submitted a high bid you might not work at all.

It was up to the hiring agency to figure out if your bid was worth the work they would get.

Simple and easy, of course bureaucracy always finds a way in…

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So here is what I’ve been told and read.
The R5 CO sent out a letter on June 25th telling the dozer & transport vendors that they needed to “rebid” their transportation & dozer rates. The email had approximately 3 Pages of justification for the transportation rate reduction and about 2 sentences for the dozers. The email stated “The FS will not pay more than rates currently paid by Calfire” or something to that effect. Seems over half of the venders in R5 didn’t adjust and have been removed from the lists.

Here’s the problem. Calfire has a 1 operator rate that they define as 12hr and a 2 operator rate that they define as 24hr. The FS defines these as 1 operator 16hr, & 2 operator as 24hr. Furthermore, the VIPR language states that the 2 operator rate (24hr) shall be 65% greater than the 1 operator rate(16hr)

Well, if you take a Calfire 1 operator rate & add 65% to it per VIPR you will end up approx $450 less than a Calfire 2 operator rate. If you take a Calfire 24hr rate and reduce it by 65%. The single operator FS rate is approx $350 MORE THAN THE CALFIRE RATE.

Here’s the rub. If you look at other regions for example R3 and find the same size & type of dozer. The rates rates are $400-600 more than those in R5. Now that may not seem like much. But in California diesel is approx $1-2 per gallon more and the Air Resources Board has made it so the older equipment that vendors in other states can use is illegal. So R5 pays more for newer equip and pays more for fuel.

The new CO (name listed above) won’t return ANYONE’S phone calls or emails


Here’s that newsletter online.


You have to remember! We are talking about Agreements! not contracts, with an agreement they can do whatever they want! Hopefully the issues will be cleared up soon! But the FS has definitely messed up!


A lot of “Vendors” think the agreements are a “binding contract” they are not!

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I have been a fire contractor for 30 years and in the last 12 months we have had more pushback on pricing from almost all CO starting with our national contracts and buying teams for CWN equipment and this year for VIPR Agreements. So it’s not just R5 it’s the Feds in general.

And just wait until next year Calfire has BIG changes coming for hired Equipment!

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The water tender agreements are also screwed up. Many of us did not bid for next year because of confusion in the way they posted the solicitation. I would conclude half of the venders in the region are not going to be under contract in 2020 & 21. And they refuse to answer emails or phone, which they warned us not to call.


I am right in the middle of this but I did update my rates for the cal fire rate. That being said I doubt I will respond to a fire unless it’s close to home because of the mileage rate and my dozer rate has been cut dramatically. At home we make $150 an hour and for the state we make the same. So Feds want us to beat our equipment up in the toughest terrain imaginable for around $95 an hour. With fuel and your tender there you are barely covering your daily costs. Now that they cancelled contracts if you do go to a fire they will be on us like the red headed step child. Last year in nor cal was bad enough. We all want to help out when called upon but we have a business to run.


Firewater, could you expand on the changes next year for Cal Fire Hired Equipment or direct me to where I can read what is being proposed?


Nothing in writing or finalize yet and I don’t think I’m allowed to say anymore but they had a lot of big ideas about saving costs I’ll leave it at that


Considering Calfire didnt follow the FS the VIPR program AND they did a mid contract rate increase a few years ago. You might be suprised when the new period starts


I think there may be new safety equipment requirements coming for contract dozers as well on the Cal Fire side. Helmets will be policy soon for state employed operators. Serious talk about enclosed cab requirements. And some talk about mobile radio required in dozer. Hopefully pay rates will increase to accommodate increased operating expense.

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Welcome to the forum.

Just one FOG’s opinion, but those safety measures should already be SOP, especially the enclosed cab.


The Helmets are still in wear trials for employees. So no change for 2020-20203
Mobil radio’s have been address and required headsets was the solution. Personally, I think Mobil radios & HT’s should be the standard
As for EROP Cabs I agree with that becoming a requirement. However, due to CARB the older machines are being weeded out. And until OHSA and/or MSHA ban them, it’s a bridge too far. Heck even LAC still has 1 remaining OROPS machine that is kept on Catalina Island. Again, it’s coming, but 6+ years away IMHO