San Joaquin continues to provide world-class support to critical wildland fire mission

By Annette Silva, DLA Distribution San Joaquin, California Public Affairs

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The men and women of Defense Logistics Agency Distribution San Joaquin, California’s Wildland Fire Mission Team are doing their part by supplying critical items to the wildland firefighters battling fires across the nation.

California experienced the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in its history in 2017 and 2018. The size and intensity of these wildfires caused the loss of more than 100 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and exposed millions of urban and rural Californians to unhealthy air according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. In 2018 alone, 1,618,033 acres were burnt, 310 incidents were recorded, 93 fatalities occurred and over 23, 000 structures damaged or destroyed.

For the year 2019, from Jan. 1 to July 30 there were 25,619 wildfires compared with 37,591 wildfires in the same period in 2018, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About 3.2 million acres were burned in the 2019 period, compared with 4.8 million acres in 2018 in the United States. Fortunately, California has not been as busy as previous fire seasons; however, there has been an increase of support to Alaska.

The common denominator in all the statistics are that the Wildland Fire Mission team at DLA Distribution San Joaquin, California, dedicated themselves in supplying critical assets to the firefighters every day. Some of the critical items that DDJC ships range from hand tools, fire hoses and gaskets, water handling accessories, pumps, personal protection equipment and meals-ready-to eat.

DLA is in their sixth year of managing the Wildland Fire program. Mr. Jon Hill, the DLA headquarters account manager for the U. S. Forest Service, takes extreme pride and dedication in supporting such a critical mission.
 
“Supporting this program has many rewards and challenges. Knowing the critical nature of what these firefighters need to accomplish the mission is in the forefront of our minds at DLA,” said Hill.
 
Last year, DLA filled 1,377 contingency operation orders and issued 24 thousand material release orders in support of the Wildland Fire program. The San Joaquin team played a large role in fulfilling those requests through their warehouse in Tracy, California. The San Joaquin team processed 27,096 requisitions in 2018 and 21,446 requisitions year to date for 2019.
 
For a critical program such as the Wildland Fire mission, communication is key across all channels. 

Hill went on to explain that DLA has assembled very specific procedures and teams that span the entire agency. DLA communicates daily and weekly across all of the major subordinate commands as well as with its partners internally and externally.
 
“The importance of this communication is invaluable to me as the account manager and is a glaring example of the professionalism of the people involved. The flow of information allows us to track trends, resolve issues and keep everyone informed of support being taken from senior leaders at DLA down to the end user at the fire camps,” said Hill. “I truly believe it is this type of collaboration and communication that has allowed DLA and the U.S. Forest Service to build an ever-growing partnership that allows us to assure public safety and minimize the destruction a wildfire can cause,” concluded Hill.

San Joaquin encourages all stakeholders to engage in constant dialogue to continuously improve the program. Joe Sousa, Bulk Division Chief who manages the team understands the critical communication element. 

“Communication has been key to strengthen a trusting, collaborative and responsive relationship with our wildfire partners,” said Sousa. 

To prepare for the wildland fire season, leadership from San Joaquin engages in daily and weekly calls with the fire cache managers during peak season in addition to weekly teleconference calls with DLA and DLA Distribution headquarters. Further, the team streamlined communication updates through combined after-action reviews and CROP discussions (what the U. S. Forest Service deems as acceptable stock levels for the upcoming fire season). 

The team at San Joaquin is always improving processes to better support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Protection Program. For example, the team cross-trained all their employees across all shifts to work this demanding mission which enabled DDJC to expand support with reduced overtime. Further, customer service hours were adjusted to have personnel on-site and available seven day a week. 

Sousa is proud of his team supporting the critical fire mission.

“The men and women of the fire mission understand the criticality of this material they pack and ship to the fire caches on a daily basis and they take pride in their work. Numerous employees from San Joaquin support this mission from receiving, warehousing, inventory, transportation and shipping,” concluded Sousa.

San Joaquin acquired the critical fire mission from the United States General Services Administration back in May 2014.  Today, DDJC is responsible for 370 national stock numbers in support of the program.

The fire mission supports the 11 United States Department of Agriculture Large Fire Support National Interagency Support Caches located in strategic areas throughout the Continental United States and Alaska. According to the USDA, these caches work together to provide the supplies and equipment for wildland fire and other all-hazard incidents.  In addition to these 11, San Joaquin also provides material to six other smaller fire caches throughout the United States.