80 firefighters fired 4 keeping dirty, bear-attracting camp


Mar 11, 2001
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Eighty firefighters fired for keeping dirty, bear-attracting camp.

GARDINER, Mont. (AP) - Eighty firefighters on the Little Joe fire burning along and north of the Yellowstone National Park border were fired earlier this week for not keeping a clean camp in grizzly bear country, officials said Thursday.
Food scraps were discovered in their sleeping areas, said Wendell Peacock, a fire information officer.

"We try to avoid the word 'fired,"' Peacock said. "They got demobilized as soon as they got back from their shift" on Tuesday.

All firefighters had been warned at multiple daily briefings about keeping a clean camp, which means no food in designated sleeping areas, Peacock said.

The scraps left near the sleeping bags included bagels, cream cheese, Gatorade bottles and eating utensils, he said.

"Nothing man-made (and edible) is supposed to hit the ground out here," he said. "It's for our own safety as well as the bears."

Acting Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Rich Inman said the crews all came from Montana and that there had been sanitation problems with them before.

The 80 firefighters won't be seeing any firelines, or the government paychecks that come with them, for three years, Inman said.

Peacock said he wasn't aware of any grizzly sightings during the firefighting, but they do frequent the area.

Kevin Frey, a bear specialist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said that as many as six grizzlies have been seen in the area in previous autumns.

"The last thing you want to do is to have a grizzly bear in this camp at night, with 200 people all of a sudden running around," Frey said. "Just the mass confusion" would be dangerous.

Peacock said the firefighting system is set up so that if any one crew member breaks the rules, "they all go home." The system is designed so firefighters police themselves on matters of safety and sanitation.

"We had no recourse but to send them down the road," Peacock said. "Everybody ought to know better. We impress it on them three times a day."

He said four new crews were immediately brought in.

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