What was your reaction after reading “The Big Lie”?
After reading both the essay and the response by Dave Williams, my reaction is that this is a job that has a huge amount of assumed risk. Our agency clearly states that no part of our job as firefighters is worth risking your life over. However, just being out in the forest and completing our mission and objectives as safely as possible is still very dangerous.
Even though we do our very best to mitigate risk as best we can, including snagging, posting lookouts and making legitimate escape routes and safety zones, we’re all still at risk due to unforeseen circumstances. So, clearly it is a “Big Lie” to say that there are going to be no losses, but my question—and I’m sure many others’—is what defines an “acceptable” loss? Even if we took every precaution that anyone could think of, can we still guarantee that there won’t be a vehicle accident on the way to an incident?
I agree with the main concept that it is, in fact, wrong to believe that wildland firefighting is a safe job. As firefighters, and just workers in general, we do have a right to a “safe” work environment. That is the same right that, minus our military and armed forces, every worker in America has. We do have the right to turn down an assignment if we feel it is unsafe. However, with the high amount of variables that we experience, is any job in the forest completely safe? Could any group of firefighters find multiple reasons to define any assignment or mission as unsafe? I think so. As sad as it is to say, I tend to think that any job we as firefighters accept has some chance that could potentially involve a fatality. Whether it’s driving or having random trees falling that nobody could’ve predicted, there is risk involved that could potentially be fatal. I would like to find a firefighter of any experience level that truly believes their work environment is completely safe at all times.
Why do you agree or disagree?
I agree that it is a Big Lie because our job has so much inherent risk. There is not a single part of our job that guarantees safety at all times. An example is: If the driver of one of our vehicles drives very defensively and safely and obeys all the rules of the road, does that guarantee that all other drivers on the road will do the same?
What are some benefits of this essay?
I think the best benefit that this has created is that all firefighters should quit assuming that they will be safe at all times. I think this will help our agency by taking even more precautions to ensure that anything within our control can be implemented prior to our mission. I think it will help our line officers and leaders on the fire line examine every possible variable they can think of and mitigate them as soon as possible.