10 thoughts on ““The Big Lie” Continues to Fester and Inspire

  1. Great, how are you / We going to change years of practice that is contradictory to FF safety.
    The first thing a new FF should learn, is how to turn down an assignment.
    The macho attitude can and does in many ways gets you hurt and/or killed.
    Common sense safety cannot be replaced.

    • What you should have said is the first thing I need to be teaching a young firefighter is how to properly turn down an assignment, as well as then provide a better way of meeting your intent.

      I feel the macho attitude you speak of is not an industry wide problem. As a former IHC Supt, and now a district fire supervisor, I would argue that as a whole our culture is not full of adrenaline chasing glory hounds, willing to risk life and limb at any and all costs to save a grouse or pine.

      If you are not taking the time to teach the how’s and why’s of this job, and all you are doing is preaching “common sense safety” then YOU are part of the problem. I have worked closely next to my IHC peers to pass on the knowledge to better understand the conditions, methods, and real job hazards of what we do, all in an effort to help young firefighter better decrease their odds of being injured in this career.

      • As a Zigzag Hotshot working with Paul Gleason for years, I agree. We all need to become as Paul said, “students of fire.” To do that we need to understand fire better, and this requires better firefighter training whether as a Hotshot or type 2 crew.

  2. Why in the hell is there 3 firefighters under that tree during falling operations? That’s a terrible picture for this article. Not at anytime should that happen. That’s ridiculous and the fact that we let photographers on the line to take these photos is just as ridiculous.

    • Kari is a red carded ff with IHC time…going way back. Thats why shes allowed out there to do the remarkable job she does.

      At the same time, from a 1st Ammendment perspective (Which makes our republic unique among human endeavors) no where in that Ammendment does it say, “when safe to do so.”

  3. I’ve been a soldier my whole life in one capacity or another. I’ve been part of “good fights” and others that were questionable.

    The situation in the West is at a point where these fires go “nuclear” and threaten to permanently eradicate parts of my nation that are irreplaceable. Parts of this nation that took hundreds and hundreds of years to grow into what they are.

    Mitigating that destruction is dangerous work. No way around it.

    Just as there was ultimately no way around the far greater risks my great grandfathers endured to preserve this nation as a continuous whole, I am willing to take on personal risk to preserve and protect parts of this nation that cannot protect themselves.

    I’m a soldier, it’s part of the job.

    Now, that doesn’t mean being reckless about it and I believe the record of the wildland fire service is pretty good in that regard. There have been losses, but nothing like the incompetent wastage of a 2nd Bull Run or Cold Harbor.

    My great grandfathers, despite reckless wastage repeated time and again, saved a republic that has outlived them by almost 2 centuries and counting.

    Which brings me back to the original point. If putting myself under a certain level of personal risk protects something that will outlive me by centuries…thats a good fight. I’m willing to go there.

    It’s a noble endeavor and there is no question of the justness of our cause.

    Finding one of those is getting rare these days.

    Is it a perfect system, free of flaws or foible? Of course not.

    Is it a system with quite a few pretty decent people doing a pretty decent job under some pretty extra-ordinary circumstances? From what I can see, yes.

    That this discussion is happening at all is evidence of that.

    • This is not war. We are not soldiers.
      Fire is a natural tool that is vital for a healthy ecosystem. Once that message is accurately portrayed to the American public hopefully then we can start having a conversation on where people choose to build homes and why we are not going to put humans in front of their homes to stop this natural process. Your choice, your risk.

  4. Well if you can’t manage the forest and have thousands of snags, tons of large woody debris.
    A forest fire will burn up the forest- perhaps in 100-1000 years a new healthy forest will grow back naturally after the fire. All that CO 2 going into the sky- instead of lumber in a house encapsulating the carbon. Perhaps in another 50 years some rocket scientist will discover clear cuts are not so bad. Fire breaks with different age stands of timber? Perhaps it is time to not save the dead and dying trees.
    Remember Yellowstone the forest buildup of fuels was predicted but politics led to a large wildfire and people died. a year later I visited the area fire burned- was healed with new seedlings and better habitat for wildlife.

  5. Regarding the main article response from above:

    “Completely Reevaluate How We Manage Fire”

    “The 10 & 18s are not standard at all, they are merely a loose set of guidelines created to help young firefighters understand hazardous conditions and develop slides before these principles naturally ingrain themselves into subconscious thought processes.”

    I disagree. I refer to it as Fighting Fire by the Rules. It’s really pretty simple.

    When I started “back in the day” there was NO Safety Zone(s) mentioned in Fire Order Number 4 or the 13 Watch Out Situations. This was verified in an April 1980 publication titled: “Preliminary Report of Task Force on Study of Fatal and Near-Fatal Fire Accidents.” So then, just GTS that title or go to the 1977 Cart Creek Fire Fatality Review in the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) Incident Reviews in the respective Staff Ride Information Sources section

    Let’s also add in the rest of The WFF Rules to the above, i.e. LCES, the Common Denominators of Tragedy and Near-Miss Fires, and the Downhill Checklist. We hear this all the time: OMG, you expect us to memorize 43 things? I would ask you: How did you make it through high school or college without memorizing 43 things? Or you sports aficionados that can memorize and spout off literally hundreds of meaningless sports statistics. How are those going to keep you and others alive on the inherently dangerous firelines? They are not! Feel free to fill out a Hurt Feelings Report if that bothered you.

    Let’s also add in the insightful Lewis and Clark HS Superintendent Matt Holmstrom’s: “Common Denominators on Tragedy Fires – Updated for a New (Human} Fire Environment.”
    Indeed, the fire ultimately burns us and/or kills us, however, what gets us into those predicaments are the Human Factors. It matters not what type of Human Factors you want to study, e.g. avalanche, aviation, mountaineering, wildland firefighting, the similarities are relevant and remarkable.

    The Ten Standard FF Orders are clearly standards and need to remain unchanged because they work. They work every single time when you know them by heart, understand them, and follow them. It is disturbing that since the June 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire there has been a cunning movement afoot, especially within the USFS, to “revisit” and/or change the 10 and 18 “because they didn’t work that day.” I allege the reason they did not work that day was because those that perished selectively followed the ones they wanted to and disregarded those that did not. They worked for the rest of the WFF on the YH Fire that day.

    The Watch Out Situations are the guidelines and we should add a Watch Out #19 – Death From Above, e.g. Overhead, Gravity Hazards (Trees, Hazard Trees*, Widow-makers, Rocks and Other Rolling Debris, Powerlines), Lightning, Aerial Ignition, and Aircraft. Unfortunately, there are those who mistakenly believe that the Watch Out Situations can be violated … they cannot. Only the Ten Standard FF Orders and the principles of LCES can be violated. The Watch Outs can be unrecognized, unmitigated, etc. but not violated. These are things we experience on every fire, every time and they determine whether-or-not we remain engaged in our fire suppression effort(s).

    *NOTE: I use the term Hazard Trees instead of ‘snag’ because every year for the past 10-12 years WFF have been maimed and/or killed by hazard trees. Snags are by definition, standing dead trees and READS want them “saved” for wildlife. The heck with saving dead trees, save the WFF’s and call them Hazard Trees so you can mitigate them and cut them down. One of the main reasons they are Hazard Trees is due to the woeful lack of serious fire and forest management – another issue for another time.

    Back to the WFF Rules. We also hear about all the alleged wildfires where WFF followed all The WFF Rules and they were still burned over, deployed fire shelters, or died. Really? First off, if someone deploys their fire shelter then someone really screwed up, because the fire signals to us what it is going to do every single time. All we and/or our lookout(s) must do is pay attention and act accordingly. I challenge you to search the Wildland Fire LLC Incident Reviews and provide me the name of one fire where a WFF followed all the WFF Rules and was burned over, deployed a fire shelter, or died. …. You won’t find even one.

    The “required” NWCG Fire Shelter training video reveals that fire shelters are responsible for saving hundreds of lives and preventing hundreds of burn injuries since their inception. To a certain degree I agree with that. More importantly and to the point – knowing by heart, understanding, and following The WFF Rules, including mitigating the Watch Out Situations, are responsible for saving tens of thousands of WFF lives every fire season. Learn and follow the WFF Rules, they work.

    Revisiting for a moment the initial post: “The 10 & 18s are not standard at all, they are merely a loose set of guidelines created to help young firefighters understand hazardous conditions and develop slides before these principles naturally ingrain themselves into subconscious thought processes.”

    Now rephrasing that initial post: The 10 Standard Fire Orders are clearly a standard in all respects. They are not in any way, nor should they be, a loose set of guidelines. The 10 Standard Fire Orders are based on solid evidence from fatal and near fatal wildland fires. They were produced to help all firefighters understand the basic influences on all fires and the human elements to safely operate in the inherently hazardous wildland fire environment; and to develop the necessary slides to properly ingrain the principles of good, sound decision making in wildland firefighting.

    Further rephrasing the initial post: Yes indeed, ingrain these WFF Rules into our conscious and subconscious minds and our thought processes to effectively and properly do our dangerous jobs safely and well. Otherwise, according to researchers like Daniel Goleman, when we start to mentally break down in stressful situations, we resort to what we are most familiar with, e.g. South Canyon Fire – sharpening a chainsaw; 30-Mile Fire – mopping up with a nozzle, etc. There is also credible research based on science and empirical experiences that show us how to overcome this human failure “On Combat” by former Army Ranger and West Point psychology professor David Grossman.

    It indicates that what consistently produces the best results is training as realistically as possible and repeatedly using accurate and consistent actions, like memorizing the WFF Rules, including recognizing and mitigating the respective Watch Out Situations to the point of ‘muscle memory.’ This works well and has kept others out of unnecessary danger and alive in warfare and gunfights and will do the same for us in our inherently dangerous work.

  6. Pingback: What does a well-founded risk decision look like? | Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

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