This is Asheville IHC Reaction #8 – part of the Asheville Hotshots written reactions to “The Big Lie”
I would like to answer the questions within a single response.
My reaction to reading “The Big Lie” was of complete and total agreeing with the author. Our job as wildland firefighters is dangerous, and at most times not safe. We have been told that we are to mitigate all hazards that are possible, but when it comes down to it, we evaluate these hazards and make a snap judgment as to we can live with the risk. But our leadership pushes us to believe that we are to work in a safe environment.
We work in a job that concerns fire, steep rocky terrain, aviation, heavy machinery, smoke, and stress. As the author stated, a hotshot driving an ATV loaded with burn mix at dusk after working all day—there is nothing safe about that. Merriam Webster defines safe as being free from harm or risk. In the engine world, I take a Type 3 Engine into narrow windy roads doing structural protection in southern California—complete freedom from harm or risk is not there.
I agree with the intention of this essay. And I am very thankful that someone has finally put this to writing. Our job is not ever completely safe, we run our operations based on the guideline of the 10 and 18’s. But when it comes down to it, our decisions as leaders come down to risk vs. reward. On initial attack operations, we engage aggressively, deploying a hose line, and at times breaking our policy of always having water with us, by deploying hose in a two-to-one fashion. We as leaders make the choice to deploy out tactics based on what should work, and the majority of the time, how completely safe is it for everyone involved?
I hope that this essay brings forth a reaction of rethinking the policy and guidelines handed down to us, and to accept a more truthful approach and view of our job. This job is dangerous, mitigation when dealing with environmental hazards cannot ever be one hundred percent, mitigation of hazards while driving narrow roads cannot be one hundred percent. We can try, but there are forces outside of our control, that we have no say over.
Hazards and risk of the job is something that we all must accept as we do this job.