Reply to Investigative Media concerning an allegation made against Granite Mountain IHC

Holly Neill shares her research into an allegation made against Granite Mountain IHC.

I would like to comment on a recent article titled “Forest Service Ignored Information From Hotshot Leaders About Granite Mountain’s History of Bad Decisions” (link below).

http://www.investigativemedia.com/forest-service-ignored-information-from-hotshot-leaders-about-granite-mountains-history-of-bad-decisions/

From the article:

“In an interview with InvestigativeMEDIA, Provencio provided details of a situation on the Horseshoe 2 Fire on the Coronado National Forest in southern Arizona in 2011 where Marsh was a division supervisor and made a recommendation for work that was rejected by four hotshot superintendents. (Marsh was a division supervisor at the Yarnell Hill fire where he oversaw Granite Mountain, which was under the command of his assistant, Jesse Steed.) …

“Marsh’s expectation was we can get this done in a short amount of time,” Provencio said. But Provencio and the other hotshot superintendents thought otherwise”.

Without additional information, it might be easy to oversimplify and condense Provencio’s account into a neat conclusion…suggesting that Eric Marsh acted in an unsafe/dangerous manner as Division Supervisor with supervisory responsibility for multiple IHC’s….all leading to evidence of “Granite Mountain’s history of bad decisions”. However, I believe it is important to follow through and check facts for such serious allegations.

Marsh was not assigned Division Supervisor as stated, but was assigned Crew Boss (CRWB) on Horseshoe 2 fire in 2011. There are no records or sources* to indicate that Eric Marsh was assigned Division Supervisor.

*SAIT: H: Qualifications: Master Record: Eric Marsh: pg 335

*Crew Fire Record 2011: Eric Marsh: pg 340

*Other: personnel recollections and payroll records.

Personnel from the Horseshoe 2 fire, including the Type 1 Incident Commander and other overhead, provided their accounts for additional clarification.The following recollection is from overhead personnel on the Horseshoe 2 fire, who wishes to remain anonymous:

“I remember flying it and seeing it. It was a pretty tight little area. We were debating if we should back up to the next ridge or not, and there were a lot of conversations like that going on. Eric (Marsh) had the crew (GMIHC). They were coming down a ridge bringing fire with them. He asked Geronimo and another IHC from California to hike up to them and grab it and take it the rest of the way down. Both crews turned it down. There were a lot of conversations going on about this. The IC’s got involved when the two crews said they were turning it down. The two crews wanted to back up to the next ridge.”

The Type 1 Incident Commander provided additional information about the refusal/ turn down protocol used by Provencio and the other IHC. Marsh was not assigned as Division Supervisor on Horseshoe 2 fire; he was assigned as Granite Mountain superintendent/crew boss. He was part of a group of 12-14 IHC superintendents. The planning and decision process was led by the Type 1 Operations Section Chief, Branch Director and Division Supervisor.

Horseshoe 2 Fire 2011 (2)

The team had a very tricky piece of open line on the west side of the fire and they were trying to figure out how to best handle it.  There were a multitude of options.  Risk Management/Safety was the first priority.

There were some long, well thought out discussions on the GO/ NO GO decision to fight the fire aggressively on the west side, and at the end, everyone agreed to go with the plan.  When all the lines were constructed and in place (a couple days of extremely hard work by the hotshot crews that were there), and it was time to burn it out, there were a couple hotshot crews who decided it wasn’t safe and refused the assignment.  (Not four crews as Provencio states…the recollection being two crews… Geronimo and another IHC from California.)

The refusal caught everyone off guard because of the earlier agreements.  It caused a serious delay in the operational work, by setting everything back several hours and putting a lot of extra strain on all the other hotshot crews that continued with the work. The refusal was a HUGE thing to the Incident Management Team.  They immediately reviewed all of their plans, the thought process, the risk management, the values at risk, etc.….  At the end they all agreed that it still was the best option, and the crews that were up there also agreed.

Facts Matter!

Esse Quam Videri
Holly Neill
WFGI Director
Head of Research and Analysis