“The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center is the only place that maintains a comprehensive record of past incidents and accidents [Incident Review Database].
If we can’t learn from our history, then we should just consider wildland fire management a hobby and not a profession.”
Regional Fire Manager
Where did The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center come from and why do we exist? These are important questions and their answers provide context to our mission and the variety of ways we carry it out.
In 1994, 34 wildland firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty, 14 of them on the South Canyon Fire. This tragic season triggered the interagency TriData Firefighter Safety Awareness Study that recommended a permanent “lessons learned” program be established for wildland firefighters: Wildland Fire Safety Awareness Study Phase III, Appendix A.
In 2002 our Center was stood up with a focus on striving to improve safe work performance and organizational learning for all wildland firefighters. That focus has not changed.
Since its inception in 2002, the LLC has been growing to better serve this country’s wildland firefighters, helping promote a culture of safe and effective wildland firefighter work practices and improving wildland firefighters’ learning and training networks to further enhance their knowledge and skills.
“The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center is an invaluable clearinghouse for information regarding accidents in fire. I do a fair bit of training at the FFT1-Crew Boss level. I use that information to build case studies and training simulations for students and to answer coworkers and my own questions about how accidents happen . . .
The LLC is an invaluable resource for learning from our accidents. Perhaps even more importantly, it honors those whose sacrifices teach us those lessons by keeping their memories alive with us.”
Firefighter, Interagency Hotshot Crew
Our mission is to promote learning in the wildland fire service by providing useful and relevant products and services that help to reveal the complexity and risk in the wildland fire environment.
How Do We Carry Out the Mission?
To successfully carry out its mission, the LLC staff focuses on getting lessons directly to the field. This is accomplished through a variety of methods and efforts, including assisting with staff rides and supporting workshops and special presentations.
Incident Review Summary
Each year the LLC analyzes and summarizes reported incidents to create an Incident Review Summary. This report’s overall intent is to provide content and context for crew training and discussions. Each annual summary includes exercises to aid crew leaders and instructors with facilitation.
Rapid Lesson Sharing
Created by the LLC in 2011, the Rapid Lessons Sharing (RLS) communication tool continues to provide a quick and easy way for firefighters to get their lessons back out to the field. These “lessons” include successes, challenges, methods for accomplishing tasks more efficiently or safely, close-calls—anything that others can learn from. Today, RLS is recognized as a review vehicle in the “Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations” (Red Book).
Two More Chains
We continue to produce Two More Chains, a quarterly publication for wildland firefighters established by the LLC in 2011.
Comments on Two More Chains:
“Thank you for your terrific articles and insights. Your publication really connects with the folks on the ground. Please continue the great work. I look forward to every issue.”
“Thank you for the effort and work you folks continually show to make the lessons applicable and accessible.”
Our Multi-Platform Approach for Disseminating Lessons
The following tools continue to grow the LLC’s reach and increase interaction with those using the lessons.
‘What’s New’ Email
We reach more than 7,000 people with the push of a button. We use our “What’s New” emails to disseminate new incident reviews as well as to notify users about new blog posts, videos, or important articles. We use our institutional knowledge and constant analysis to highlight specific elements in these communications. We do not shy away from contentious topics, rather we view them as opportunities to stimulate dialogue and interest in risk-related topics.
Our Blog has become an important outlet for students of fire. Our number of user-submitted contributions continues to grow, making this venue truly “for the field by the field.” More than other platforms, this one generates lengthy and insightful comments from readers, making it a genuine space of dialogue.
Our Podcast has unique utility for meeting our mission. This medium is especially useful because it can be consumed on the way to and from actual incidents. This lends itself to group discussion and immediate opportunities to apply concepts. We have had opportunities to place links to situation-relevant podcasts in IAP safety messages at incidents. Other recent LLC podcast episodes have addressed the nuances of wildland fire entrapments and took on the problematic notion of “Bad Apples.”
Videos continue to serve as a primary vehicle for lessons via our YouTube Channel. As more and more incident reviews contain video clips, our channel has become a critical venue for telling our stories and engaging our primary audience. Videos from our channel are consistently used in formal and informal training sessions across the globe.
Facebook and Twitter
Both our Facebook page and Twitter feed serve as a key venues for disseminating information and products to our workforce. They have also become useful tools for our staff to maintain a finger on the pulse of this user group by tracking the tone, tenor, and overall reaction to our content. Popular posts on our Facebook page reach more than 70,000 individuals. Facebook and Twitter continue to serve as a primary access point to LLC content for much of our workforce. When possible, we condense lessons down to bitesize portions for immediate application or as an enticement for our users to investigate more thoroughly.