I want to start off by saying that this was my first time reading this essay and I look forward to going over it a few more times in the next several months to see how my view evolves as I have more time to think about it.
I agree with the author, any time someone in our profession tells anyone—whether it is themselves or their family/friends—that our job is “safe,” that is a lie.
While I have told multiple people that my job is “safe,” including my wife and my parents, I know that there is some element of risk associated with it. Any time you have all the dynamic factors that we deal with, there is an aspect of risk associated, especially in aviation.
I tell those people that my job is safe so that they are not worrying about me as much. If I told my wife the realities all the time she would never let me do my job. Is that justified? It all depends on your level of risk tolerance and all of us are different. I know mine has constantly evolved as I have gotten older and I am sure it will change if I were to ever have kids.
What I spoke of above is all about my PERSONAL level of risk, and what I tell MY community. As a wildland fire culture, maybe we are doing the same thing—accepting it is risky but telling the rest of our world it is “safe” so they don’t worry.
I honestly do not think we can ever get rid of risk and fatalities in our business. But like the author said, what we can do is invest in the people who make the decisions and try to retain good firefighters and good decision makers.
Maybe we can change the perception and culture of what we do, so we don’t take as many risks. But until we are just sitting in our offices totally disengaged, we will always continue to lose firefighters.