Ultimately, a student of fire is first and foremost a student. A student is always learning. A student never assumes they have it all figured out. A student looks for the lesson. A student is willing to question their own beliefs.
It is the nature of our job that we are thrown into high-risk operations with strangers. We have to quickly develop trust (or not), evaluate risk, and depend at least partly on strangers for our safety, which makes ours a strange and unique occupation.
As you engage with your fellow firefighters and share observations and judgements it’s possible you’re teaching as much as you’re learning.
What is the learning system like on your module, crew, or home unit? How does it work? Do you dedicate specific time to learning or do you have a more opportunistic approach—capitalizing on learning moments as they present themselves?
A deep commitment to learning asks us all to get comfortable letting go of a rigid or fixed mindset and coming into situations with true inquisitiveness.
The workforce we have should not leave this career wrestling with burnout, anxiety, trauma, stress, addiction, self-harm, or suicide. We, as a collective community of those who work in wildfire, owe more to ourselves and our peers.
During the shifts dominated by underpaid pain and undue stress, I derived honest comfort from the idea I was serving the community by performing essential acts of citizenship, privileged with the opportunity of accomplishing tasks I considered mostly worthwhile most of the time.
It’s important to remember that sharing a lesson doesn’t always have to be associated with an accident or close call.
When you read reports, don’t expect the lessons to be spoon-fed to you on paper. That’s not where the learning is. Learning comes from the intentional interaction you engage in after the reading.
The culmination of our crew’s training is the South Canyon Staff Ride. That’s where a lot of tremendous lessons are learned up on that hill during this Staff Ride experience.