Every year the US Forest Service leases equipment, with operators, from private vendors through what are called Incident Blanket Purchase Agreements (I-BPA). These are primarily multiple year, multiple award agreements, where owners of equipment, such as excavators and fire engines (called “resources”), agree to lease out their equipment for a set price before the fire season starts. The majority of this equipment is leased through the Virtual Incident Procurement Resource (VIPR), an online bid submission site. The Forest Service also has a cooperative agreement with other land management agencies, such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Montana Department of Natural Resource & Conservation, who put out I-BPAs for the hire of other resources. All these agencies cooperate on wildland fires and other emergencies (called “all hazard incidents” or just “incidents”) under the umbrella of the Northern Rockies Coordinating Group where they can use the resources provided by all the agencies under shared contracts. This article only covers contracting with the Forest Service through the VIPR system.
This year the Forest Service will be soliciting bids for 3-year agreements through VIPR for Heavy Equipment (Dozers, Excavators, and Transports) Faller Modules (sawyers), and Service Truck with Mechanic. They are called “agreements” partly because there are no guarantees that vendors will be called up – it depends on the fire season, but the vendor has agreed to provide the resource under the terms and conditions of the agreement.
In order to bid on a VIPR solicitation, there are a number of requirements. They include being registered in System for Award Management and having a VIPR account. You must have a fully insured, independent business to contract with any branch of the government. Your SAM registration is necessary to establish the legal identity of your company, its status as a Small Business or other socio-economic category and to provide Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) information so you can get paid. Your basic company information is pulled from SAM into VIPR when you establish an account in VIPR and then you enter the information on your equipment (resource) and respond to solicitations through the online system with a bid price. The Forest Service uses a combination of your price and other factors, such as the quality of your equipment and the experience of the operator, to determine what position you will hold on the Dispatch Priority List. This list governs the order in which vendors will be called in the event of an incident (wildland fire).
All vendors interested in fire contracting with the Forest Service must familiarize themselves with the terms, conditions and laws that govern their contractual relationship with the government when they are deployed at an incident. The best place to start is to go the Northern Rockies Coordinating Group website and click on “Fire Contracting” in the left hand column; on the next page click “Start Here” (also on the left had column) and begin reading. Also on the Fire Contracting page is a large Yellow Box with links to updates and essential information for vendors. In the Yellow Box, click on “Dispatch Priority and Resource Lists” and it will take you to a page showing all the solicitations, going back to 2014, that are still the basis for current agreements with vendors. Here you can read past solicitations to learn if fire contracting is a good match for your business. You can also click on the “Dispatch DPL” to find all the vendors on the priority list for a given dispatch center location or you can click on “Out of Area DP” and see the list of all the vendors, and their bid prices, for a given resource.
The Forest Service generally puts out its yearly solicitation for VIPR contracts by the end of February and makes awards by May. This timeline may vary. You can find these solicitations on Beta SAM, which you can log into using your Login.gov username and password. You can do searches without logging in but you will not have all the functionality. Use the search bar at the top of the page, click on the drop down box and choose “Contract Opportunities”. In the box marked “I’m looking for”, over write with “VIPR”. This will give you all the VIPR solicitations nationwide. For our area you want to look for Region 1 solicitations. Thoroughly read all the information about the solicitation including the due date and description. Download a copy of the solicitation and read the entire document.
The Northern Rockies Coordinating Group, the group of agencies that cooperate on fire in Region 1, hosts a pre-proposal meeting for vendors right after the solicitation is published. At this meeting the agencies provide presentations on fire contracting and the upcoming season, and is an opportunity for vendors to ask questions. Here is the schedule for this year’s meetings and the resources that are up for bid this year.
- Coeur d’Alene, ID. February 11 – 1900 – 2130hrs. (7:00 PM 9:30 PM)- Sundance room IDL at 3284 W. Industrial Loop
- Missoula, MT. February 12 – 1900 – 2130hrs. (7:00 PM 9:30 PM)- Pintler room at Northern Rockies Training Center, 5765 W. Broadway St.
- Billings, MT. February 13 – 1900 – 2130hrs. (7:00 PM 9:30 PM)- Billings Interagency Dispatch, 1299 Rim Top
Solicitation Plan for 2020:
- Montana DNRC: Type 2 Crews and Rental Vehicles
- National Park Service: Tents/ Yurts and Weed Washer
- USDA Forest Service: Heavy Equipment (Dozer, Excavator, and Transports);Faller Modules; Paramedic, EMT, Ambulance; and Mechanic with Service Truck
Government contracting requires close attention to requirements and sufficient administrative resources to comply with regulations. Montana PTAC is here to assist you with registration and bidding on these agreements.