Don’t Clone

This is the Ground Truths column from our 2019 Summer edition of Two More Chains.


Ground Truths by Travis Dotson

I recently found myself in Alaska as a Task Force Leader without a taskforce.

I was on that assignment where you check in and they kind of laugh and say: “Oh yeah, I forgot we put that order in. We probably should have canceled.”

So you head up to DP Double-H (Hide-n-Hold) to “wait for an assignment.” And then a bunch of hose shows up and you start unloading nets.

This is how I found myself sneering at all the nameless wonks out there on the hillside who apparently don’t share my respect for the highly refined art of the tight butterfly. C’mon folks, show some pride in your work!

I want some butterfly standards.

If I staff an engine, I know there’s going to be a morning engine check, because that is standard. If I’m getting in a helicopter, I know there is going to be a briefing, because that is standard. If I call in a medical emergency, I use the Medical Incident Report—because that is the standard. Standardization is a big deal.

I Love Standards/I Hate Standards

I love standards. I want everything in the same place on every engine. I want every agency to agree on one helmet rule for UTVs.

I hate standards. I want to decide for myself how to best configure my engine. I want to make my own risk assessment on what bucket to put my brains in.

Standardization is both virtuous and corrupt.

Paradox is a real thing, and there is room in the world for it. Let it in. Extremes are dangerous. Consider the middle way. Pursue balance. Ancient wisdom type stuff.


Sheep wearing sunglasses

Face the Danger

In the realm of standardizing, the danger I will point out is that of standardizing our workforce. I’m not certain we realize how often we unconsciously advocate for hiring homogenized humans. I often hear the beer-backed bellyaching about wanting a crew full of “good ‘ol farm kids.”

Yes, indeed, the skills gained growing up on a farm are super handy and we must have some—but you don’t want the WHOLE crew to be carbon copies of anything.

Yet again my thoughts are not particularly insightful. Any salty supt. worth their saline will tell you that “it takes a bunch of different haircuts to make a good crew.” And right out of the other side of their mouth they will extol the virtues of lining up, lining out, listing, and lovingly labeling every piece of like-in-kind bit of gear for those different haircuts to use and destroy.

The message seems to be: Standardize the gear, not the people. I can buy that. That is called diversity.

Wisdom Hides in Plain Sight

Other well-brined pyro-junkies will wax not-so-poetic about the black and white nature of fireline fatalities.

You know, the old “if somebody died, somebody screwed up” perspective. The ultimate “bad apple” proponents.

Those same souvenirs (you know, a trinket from the past) will also warn against the ultimate danger of “Group Think.” Group Think is best achieved when too many of the same haircuts are gathered around the map. Again, an internal plea for diversity.

Wisdom has a wide ranging wardrobe, it often hides in plain sight. Be open to it. Don’t standardize your source.

Clones are clowns. Let’s make different the standard.

Swing on Toolswingers.


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