Calm is Contagious

By Travis Dotson

Chances are you have had this very assignment.

Just putting some indirect dozer line in a couple miles away and downhill from the fire…no big deal.

Then s#!t got real.

Division does what Divisons do – cleared everyone off the line then went to check on those that didn’t have time.

Dozer operator played salty to a tee – working until the very last moment.

Heavy Equipment Boss Trainee is crazy calm while death comes walking by.

These are the situations we face and this is how we act.

Chances are you have had this assignment before. Chances are you took on the assignment, got it done and didn’t end up digging in the dirt for air to breathe.

These folks took the assignment. They were getting it done.

Then s#!t got real.

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So what’s the difference between your outcome and theirs?

Did they wander into a bad luck day or are they just bad firefighters?

Are those the only choices?

Tell us your answers in the comments.

Maybe think before you type.

7 thoughts on “Calm is Contagious

  1. I’m positive that this situation has happened numerous times in the past, and the Beaver Fire situation just happened to get captured on video and documented.
    I’m pretty sure this same situation will happen again, and it won’t be due to a lack of experience….on the contrary, it will happen again because of the depth of experience the folks involved will have.
    It is human nature in our culture to be task-driven, especially when there are homes and people involved….communication can and WILL be interpreted differently by different people, all of whom could have heard the same set of directions….and because this situation was really caused by human factors, that COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO ANY ONE OF US, it is important that we look at ourselves in the mirror and say, what will I take from this that I will use as a trigger point for myself? How can I apply this situation to my own methods of operating, such that I will recognize when this same situation is setting up? And, once I’ve been able to recognize this, what are my options and what ideas could I turn to in order to move the situation towards a different outcome?

  2. Great video and good narration. I certainly have had this situation occur as a dozer operator and as a fire fighter, it just never got to the point of deployment in a shelter. With hind site, I do not know why they did not leave the area in the div. sups truck heading down and away from the fire. I know there are a million reason why they may not have been able to leave. Glad all went well and that everyone is safe. Great to have this learning tool available.

  3. Great video and think it would be great to include in fire refreshers this year. The actual video footage is a great discussion topic. Thank you for sharing the story.

  4. I know how these guys felt. Happen to me in 2010 in Georgia, I was lucky didn’t have to deploy, but was very close. What they said is so true. Staying calm is the ticket to survival. So many thoughts going though your head. I always tell my crew to have a plan a,b,c and etc. Stay focused and know your surroundings.

  5. Q:Did they wander into a bad luck day or are they just bad firefighters?
    A: Neither. They are good firefighters who survived a very environment with varying conditions. They used the tools they had and remained focused. Was this a success or a failure? Depends… but does that really matter? These firefighters gave many an opportunity to learn from their experiences. Maybe their lessons will be the very thing that allows the next firefighter in this situation to return home.
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. I have a technical question – with the bulldozer operating, would having scraped a trench for shelter deployment provide more protection, or somehow compromised the shelters?

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