Message from Leadership
Acting State & Private Forestry Deputy Chief Patti Hirami
Sustainability is inherent to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) mission. We want to be good land stewards. We are also required to divert 55% of our non-hazardous waste from landfills (USDA Environmental Department Reg. 5600-05).
USFS fire operations require large quantities of supplies. Packaging, paper, food waste, plus damaged, destroyed, or worn-out equipment and materials all contribute to the waste stream. Much of this waste can be recycled, repurposed, or recovered, thus preventing it from reaching landfills.
Our wildfire response efforts present opportunities to demonstrate our commitment to conservation through efficient federal operations.
Earlier this month, I issued a letter together with Acting National Forest Systems Deputy Chief Christopher French asking to identify opportunities to apply sustainable business practices and to leverage the Greening Fire Team’s tools and resources. As you prepare for the upcoming fire season, please apply the information in this letter and other resources to reduce consumption of financial and natural resources at incidents. Thank you for your leadership and commitment to our mission.
- 4 – The number of Geographic Area Coordination Centers that will have access to the new On-site Incident Recycling BPA during Fire Season 2019.
- $170 million – The combined inventory value of the 15 National Support Caches in the U.S.
- 55% – The percentage of non-hazardous waste required to be diverted from landfills by U.S. Department of Agriculture Environmental Department Regulation 5600-05.
Interested in learning more about the Greening Fire Team? Have questions about any of the stories in this bulletin? If so, email the Greening Fire Team.
In the Spotlight
Alicen Kandt, Senior Research Engineer, Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden Colorado
Can you provide some background about NREL and the support they provide to Greening Fire Team?
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located in Golden, Colorado, is the United States' primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is the only federal laboratory dedicated to the research, development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
NREL and the USFS have had a long-standing partnership, spanning nearly two decades. NREL provides support to USFS in identifying opportunities for reducing energy and water use, utilizing renewable technologies, and minimizing waste generation and in helping get identified projects implemented. In 2015, NREL began to work with USFS staff to identify ways to improve sustainable practices at fire camps, including decreasing energy use, water use, and generated waste. These efforts began with establishing an understanding of fire operations and associated energy and water use, and waste generation. Additionally, NREL staff participated in monthly calls with Greening Fire Team members, researched related efforts in similar operations, and conducted a data call to gather relevant energy, water, waste, and other operational data.
Can you provide some background about NREL and the support they provide to the Greening Fire Team? (continued)
In 2016 and 2017, NREL staff, in conjunction with USFS staff, visited wildfire incidents to understand the complicated logistical operations at fire camps. Also, NREL gathered additional data while attempting to identify operational efficiencies that could be implemented to reduce energy or water use and waste generation.
NREL has proposed findings of its fire camp visits in a report, entitled “Opportunities for Energy, Water, and Waste Reduction at U.S. Forest Service Fire Camps,” hopefully to be published this spring (see the “New Report” story below for more details). NREL will continue to work with the Greening Fire Team in the future, with near-term plans to support the development of a Fire Support Guide to provide steps necessary to adopt sustainable business practices in fire management support.
To read the entire article click on the link under Related Content in the left-hand column.
Briefly describe your first experience visiting a fire camp for energy assessment.
The first fire I visited was in 2016, the Cold Springs Fire west of Boulder, Colorado. I was so impressed by the efficiency of operations, all of the players and pieces coming together so smoothly. It was amazing to witness the effectiveness achieved in such a large, inter-agency, multi-organizational operation and to see how many people are behind the scenes supporting the firefighters with logistics such as meal preparation and ensuring that there's a reliable power supply to the camp.
The logistics blew me away! My amazement relates not to just those associated with what I was there to evaluate – energy, water, waste associated with the fire camp operations – but also to actual wildfire fighting logistics that are coordinated and facilitated and managed in these operations. It was fascinating, and I am grateful to be involved in this project.
What is your opinion on why integration of sustainable business practices at fire camps is so essential?
The Forest Service has an ongoing effort to reduce its environmental footprint in every activity, including firefighting. In 2015, the federal cost of fighting fires topped $2.1 billion, with $1.7 billion funded by Forest Service and the rest from the Department of the Interior. Although the number of fires—68,151—wasn't a record, the amount spent to manage them was.
There certainly is an incentive to reducing costs associated with energy, water, and waste disposal for fire camp operations. Also, there’s an added benefit of resilience for some of these measures too. Perhaps grid-power isn’t available in the ideal location for a fire camp, but a portable PV system could provide sufficient power to enable the camp to function.
What are some of the challenges (barriers) to implementing sustainability practices at incidents?
The primary objective of the fire camp operations is to support the firefighter, and sustainable operations best management practices are often an afterthought. Identifying methods to incorporate sustainable practices into the everyday operations, in a way that is seamless and engrained in operational practices, will enable sustainability to become commonplace without adding burden or distraction to Incident Management Teams (IMTs).
Can you highlight a few sustainable efforts currently under way at fire camps that you observed?
There are many best practices already in place! Here are three examples:
- The Mobile Food Services Contract requires that national catering contractors provide bio-based/bio-preferred utensils, plates, and cups, and collect these items and food wastes in bio-based/bio-preferred liners. This is an effective first step in implementing composting in fire camp operations.
- Many incidents had comprehensive recycling options, including cardboard, plastics, glass, and even batteries. One incident contracted these services out to a vendor, resulting in a large increase in recycled materials and minimizing the burden to USFS staff associated with coordinating recycling efforts.
- The use of canteens, or cubies, is broadly encouraged and often adopted. Potable water taps are provided on all fires, and the use of cubies helps reduce the plastic waste generated from plastic bottle use.
Does NREL have any best management practices to recommend?
NREL is currently finalizing a report summarizing findings and suggested best practices based on our fire camp visits. That report categorizes suggestions into the following categories: coordination, energy reduction, water reduction, and waste management and reduction.
Some best practice suggestions included deploying a Sustainable Operations Coordinator on every incident, standardizing data collection of energy, water, and waste related metrics, utilizing small, portable renewable energy systems (such as PV-powered light towers), and recycling and using rechargeable battery use on every fire.
Suggestions in the NREL report will be vetted by USFS staff, combined with existing best practices, and bundled together in a Fire Support Guide.
U.S Forest Service Formalizes Partnership with Hose2Habitat
In early February 2019, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) executed a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) (see link under Related Content) with Hose2Habitat. Headquartered in Maryland, Hose2Habitat aims to improve the physical and psychological well-being of wild animals in human care by providing and enhancing enrichment for those animals through the donation of recycled and other materials, plus workshops and seminars.
The 15 National Support Caches located throughout the U.S. have a combined inventory valued at over $170 million. In the course of their operations, the caches generate a significant amount of waste. After investigating their waste patterns, the North Zone Fire Cache (NZFC) estimated that an average of 15 tons of waste is generated from fire camps in the North Zone Region (Northern California). The MOU presents a great opportunity to divert a variety of waste materials from fire caches. This material includes a vast quantity of spent fire hose, cargo nets, helicopter swivels, and clear cut manzanita.
In March 2017 the Forest Service hosted a Hose2Habitat animal enrichment workshop (see link under Related Content) at the NZFC in Redding, California. Animal caretakers came from far and wide to learn from Hose2Habitat volunteers the techniques for creating enrichment items, such as crafting hammocks, cubes, feeders and climbing ladders out of fire hoses. This was the first ever West Coast workshop of this kind. You can read more about the initial pilot effort in the Region 5 Spotlight (see link under Related Content).
The MOU aims to build on the success of early efforts such as that of the NZFC by scaling up partnership applications. The National Partnership Office and Greening Fire Team (a partnership with Washington Office Fire & Aviation Management) are collaborating to develop an implementation plan following on this MOU.
More recent articles about this partnership are posted on the USFS Blog (see link under Related Content).
New Report: Opportunities for Energy, Water, and Waste Reduction at U.S. Forest Service Fire Camps
As part of ongoing efforts by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to reduce energy use and incorporate sustainable and efficient practices into its operations, the USFS funded Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to conduct site visits and analyses of fire camp operations at six fires across the U.S.
This report documents the findings of those visits and provides information for the implementation of energy, water, and waste conservation measures, and renewable energy measures.
A variety of energy, water, and waste reduction opportunities were identified. Potential best management practices included utilizing renewable energy systems, specifying LED lights, offering more than one meal size, recycling and composting at every incident, and others.
Each potential best management suggestion is described in detail, and then potential next steps and considerations are provided.
A link to the report is under Related Content.
New Blanket Purchase Agreement: On-site Incident Recycling Services
In the past, some of our IMTs have tried to incorporate recycling at incidents, either through Emergency Equipment Rental Agreements (EERAs) or using in-house camp crew resources. In the interest of streamlining efforts and increasing the efficiency of waste diversion efforts, the National GFT developed a new, on-site incident recycling Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA).
The new on-site recycling BPA offers several advantages:
- Standardized recycling equipment, signs, processes, and expectations means that our rotating fire camp personnel have a similar recycling experience on each camp, which increases efficacy and engagement.
- Highly qualified vendors can provide IMTs assurance that waste diversion services at fire camps will improve waste management practices with reduced strain on our “in-house” personnel.
- Reduced personnel-hours tied to submitting and processing EERA requests on a case-by-case basis across four Geographic Area Coordination Centers (GACCs).
- Standardized waste diversion reporting that enables the agency to easily capture and communicate our efforts to achieve compliance with USDA Directive 5600-005 to divert 55% of our agency’s waste from the landfill.
The new on-site recycling BPA is expected to be awarded in late April 2019 and will provide services as early as mid-May for the Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, and Southwest GACCs.
Teams should refer to the National GFT website (see link under Related Content) for updates and information on how to issue task orders against the BPA.
Myth Buster – Recycling Isn’t Available in My Area
How many people do you know who have remarked that “recycling just isn’t available in my area”?
Many may not realize that the smart device in their hand can very quickly inform them where to drop-off recyclables and other waste items. The iRecycle app can direct you where to take 350 different materials (including standard recyclable items like cardboard, paper, plastic, and glass, as well as items like electronics, batteries, automotive parts, etc). This app is worth a look, and we hope you will give it a try!
The “iRecycle” application was developed by Earth911. Earth911 is an excellent, online resource for learning more about the recycling industry, where you can drop off recyclables in your local area, as well as eco-friendly technologies and even home and garden tips and tricks.
In addition, check out the National Recycling Coalition (NRC). The NRC is a large, non-profit organization that endeavors to boost public awareness related to reducing consumption, reusing old items, and recycling.
Many states have similar, state-based recycling coalitions as well. These recycling coalitions often have websites with searchable information related to waste diversion and recycling by county (or city) and also by commodity.
National Greening Fire Team Webinar – Wednesday, May 1 @ 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET
The Greening Fire Team is hosting a webinar to share tools and resources and the on-site Incident Recycling Blanket Purchase Agreement,
Join us for the one-hour webinar on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET
Dial in number: (888) 844-9904; Passcode: 6857433#
Adobe Connect Webinar link is under Related Content.
No RSVP is required, but space is limited; participants are encouraged to join in groups. The webinar will be recorded.
Recruiting Interagency Greening Fire Team “Ambassadors”!
The National Greening Fire Team serves an interagency mission, but has largely been comprised of USFS employees. We’re eager to onboard “Ambassadors” from inside (and especially outside!) the agency.
What is an “Ambassador”? Glad you asked! “Ambassadors” are not formal Greening Fire Team members, with deliverables and salary funding to cover part of their time.
Rather, “Ambassadors” are individuals with a keen interest in advancing sustainable business operations throughout the Fire organization.
They receive periodic emails (including Quarterly Highlights Bulletins), are invited to team update webinars (1-2 per year), and, when in positions to do so, are asked to apply information or products (e.g., our onsite incident recycling BPA (in process)) developed by the Team.
If you are interested in being a Greening Fire “Ambassador” please email the Greening Fire Team using the email address found under Contact Us.
Team Chairs: Lara Buluç & Dennis Fiore
Team Members: Hector Basso, Steve Bigby, Judith Downing, David Haston, Kelly Jaramillo, Dylan McCoy, and Bobbie Jo Skibo
Partner: Alicen Kandt (Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
NREL Interagency Agreement Oversight: David Wiley
Senior Leadership Liaison: Shawna Legarza