It is the nature of our job that we are thrown into high-risk operations with strangers. We have to quickly develop trust (or not), evaluate risk, and depend at least partly on strangers for our safety, which makes ours a strange and unique occupation.
As you engage with your fellow firefighters and share observations and judgements it’s possible you’re teaching as much as you’re learning.
What is the learning system like on your module, crew, or home unit? How does it work? Do you dedicate specific time to learning or do you have a more opportunistic approach—capitalizing on learning moments as they present themselves?
A deep commitment to learning asks us all to get comfortable letting go of a rigid or fixed mindset and coming into situations with true inquisitiveness.
The culmination of our crew’s training is the South Canyon Staff Ride. That’s where a lot of tremendous lessons are learned up on that hill during this Staff Ride experience.
It’s clear that our firefighters are spending more and more time away from their home units, engaged in difficult and extended fire assignments, and have very little time to also be responsible for implementing the needed prescribed fires back home . . . Every reason for not burning can be overcome when you have a workforce who is dedicated to getting it accomplished. This isn’t magic. It’s how all work gets done. You make it the priority duty for that work team or group of employees . . . In this way, we can start to reduce the risk to our future workforce.
Our fireline social structure is just a scrambled version of high school. But in this environment the consequences of that behavior are drastically more severe—like your buddy in a casket severe. Communication is essential. Be nice.
We are not in control of the elements influencing fire, we are not in control of the other humans influencing our situation, and we are not even in control of our own perception of what the situation is. In spite of all this uncertainty, as we step into this dynamic and complex environment, we convince ourselves we are in control of our own safety.
We often make sense of what happened by investing in the hope that our experience can be helpful to others.
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center staff members share their favorite incident reports from 2021.