The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 24, 2009
No money to burn: CAL-FIRE 2009 aviation safety conference nixed
In the aftermath of the the worst wildfire season in California in decades, the California Department of Forestry and Fire has been forced to pull the plug on a popular annual event for its statewide aviation firefighting team.

The 2009 aviation safety conference - held each spring before things heat up on the wildfire fighting front - has been canceled because there's no budget to pay for it, according to Tom Humann, the chief aviation safety officer at Cal-Fire.

Humann announced the news in a private e-mail he sent to air base battalion chiefs and staff at the department's airplane and helicopter operations statewide in late January.

"Despite the efforts of our chief officers to make this important event possible, there is simply no funding available," Humann wrote in the email, which was obtained by The State Worker under the Public Records Act.

"I am fully aware there is no substitute for the group dynamic of our conference," Humann added.  "Further it means  the loss of valuable presentations from subject matter experts from outside CAL-FIRE."

Humann promised he would work with chiefs in the field to develop "alternate means of getting the information out and soliciting feedback on safety issues."

Janet Upton, a CAL-FIRE spokeswoman, confirmed the air safety conference has been axed due to the state budget deficit. Other conferences have been nixed, too, she said.
Upton said Humann has continued to gather safety information while attending safety gatherings. He's disseminating the information he picks up to others in the aviation team.

"So, instead of having 70 people travel, he's hitting the road," Upton explained Tuesday, noting that Humann is making site visits and doing smaller group discussions to ensure that safety remains a top priority.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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