By Travis Dotson, Analyst, Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center
We (the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center) just published the 2020 Year End Infographic. It’s really just a tally of a few select numbers and some lessons we chose to highlight. We collected this information from incident reports. (If you didn’t know, a big part of our job is hosting the Incident Review Database — where wildland fire incident/accident reports live.)
Here is the deal – all the numbers are wrong.
Yep. I built this infographic and I am telling you those numbers are wrong!
And not just this year, every year. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The numbers are wrong for many different reasons. Some will say our fatality count is too many because we chose to include the three Americans who died fighting fire in Australia. Others will question why we did not include the 18 who lost their lives fighting a wildfire in China. And why did we not include the volunteer who died enroute to a brush fire in Texas? (By the way, it’s because there is no “official” report, only media accounts.)
So, the big red number is harder to pin down than one might think, meaning it will almost always be wrong.
And yet that big red number is still useful. This dark topic can serve as a catalyst to dialogue which is often the spark that leads to action. Action is where we make changes in our views, standards, daily actions, SOP’s, all that kind of stuff.
So maybe we can all agree that the number is wrong. That way we don’t waste time discussing or lamenting the number itself and we can move right into dialogue about the path forward.
People died fighting fire last year. Quite a few. Each one of them matter. Each one of them count. Whether those individual human lives are reflected in the final figure after the excruciating task of tallying up the “numbers” is done, the living are the one’s left to create meaning out of tragedy.
How do we honor the fallen? We honor through learning.
Take a look at HOW people died while assigned to wildland fires last year. Circle-up and tackle these topics:
- What role do YOU play in the risk that aviators face?
- What role do YOU play in the cardiac health of yourself and those around you?
- How prepared should YOU be for entrapment?