Friday, August 1, 2014

From "Cold Water" to "All In"

South Zone - Uinta Wasatch Cache personnel

Members of the South Zone of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest‘s are stepping up to take the the wildland fire leadership challenge as posted on the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program's Facebook page on June 11, 2014.

If you missed the challenge, here it is again:
We're "CALLING OUT" All Wildland Firefighters!
Cold water challenges have proven a great way to support local charities, many of whom respond in the aftermath of a wildland fire tragedy. The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP) was created out of our tragedies "to promote cultural change in the work force and to emphasize the vital importance of leadership concepts in the wildland fire service by providing education and leadership development opportunities." 
Wildland firefighting is a dangerous job, and we owe it to our fallen to learn from their sacrifices and do everything within our power to ensure that everyone comes home. South Canyon and Yarnell were defining moments in our history. Cultivating a culture of followership where great leaders can emerge to create healthy organizations is paramount. Therefore, we are CALLING OUT all members of the wildland fire service to accept the IGNITE the Spark for Leadership Challenge. Leadership is ACTION, and we have set some goals that only you can help us reach: 
1) Identify a Leadership Advocate(s) whose job is to:
2) Help us reach roll right over the 5,000 Facebook follower milestone before "A Week to Remember, Reflect and Learn" from June 30-July 6. We know you can do it!
3) Help us increase our weekly blog followership by 10%. 
As we approach the anniversary of two organizationally changing events, we are CALLING OUT all members of the wildland fire service to IGNITE the Spark for Leadership and SHARE throughout their networks!
What We Are Doing to IGNITE the Spark

As the South Zone FMO of the Unita-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, I had the opportunity recently to engage the Northern Utah Regulars Type 2 IA crew in the 2014 National Reading Challenge as they were being mobilized to fires in Idaho. Although the majority of crew were resources from within the South Zone, firefighters from the North Zone and the BLM's West Desert District were invited to participate and readily accepted the book and the challenge.

As part of the challenge, each member of the crew was handed a copy of Lone Survivor. My leader's intent and reading assignments were then given to challenge participants.
  South Zone - Uinta Wasatch Cache personnel

This was also a good time to re-cap what we had accomplished and learned to this pointin our journey to build a resilient team, starting with the South Canyon Staff Ride earlier this season, to the recent Week To Remember conversations. Intra-module and individual learning is taking shape and headed in the right direction based off the talking points and topics discussed so far this season. We will get together again soon and go through the reading assignments to see what we have learned so far.
More to come soon….


Allen Briggs is the South Zone Fire Management Officer on the Unita-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.
2014 Wildland Fire Leadership Campaign logo

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Food for Thought

"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens." ~ Jimi Hendrix

"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens." ~ Jimi Hendrix

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Looking Out for Others: The Rapid Lesson Sharing Tool

Rapid Lesson Sharing
Building resilient teams requires that we share what we learn with others. The 2014 Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation (Chapter 18 - Reviews and Investigations) encourages the use of Rapid Lesson Sharing (RLS) as a means by which "wildland fire and aviation managers assess and improve the effectiveness and safety of organizational operations."
Rapid Lesson Sharing (RLS) is a process for field personnel to quickly share lessons with others. RLS can be used to document and share lessons learned as a result of close calls, minor accidents, successes, efficient ways of performing work, adaptations, or anything wildland fire personnel can learn from.
To submit or view RLS documents, go to

Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

The Resilient Team

Monday, July 28, 2014

Food for Thought

"Future success is rarely built on the same platform as one's past accomplishments." ~ Amy Jen Su & Muriel Maignan Wilkins
"Future success is rarely built on the same platform as one's past accomplishments." ~ Amy Jen Su & Muriel Maignan Wilkins

Friday, July 25, 2014

Honor Through Learning - Dutch Creek

6 Minutes for Safety - Dutch Creek

Dutch Creek Incident - July 25, 2008 

Andy Palmer
(Andy Palmer; photo credit: National Park Service)
Incident Summary: On June 12, 2008, Andy Palmer graduates from high school. He completes Basic Firefighter training June 24th and Wildland Fire Chain Saw training (S-212) June 28th. He is hired as a seasonal firefighter on an engine crew June 29th and completes his A Faller taskbook on July 4th. July 22, 2008, the engine receives a resource order for the Iron Complex, California. The supervision at the park are motivated to see the engine crew obtain an assignment and call the crew in on their day off. The crew suffers a series of complications enroute to the fire including mechanical problems with the engine that lead to the eventual separation of the crew and engine captain after arriving at the incident. The remaining crew members are encouraged to pursue a line assignment as a falling team. The IMT personnel assign the crew as a falling module. During that assignment the crew cuts a tree that is outside their falling qualifications. A class C ponderosa pine is cut, falling downslope into a fire-damaged sugar pine. A portion of the sugar pine breaks off 
and falls upslope, hitting firefighter Andy Palmer, resulting in multiple severe injuries…and the loss of a firefighters’ life. It was Andy’s first fire assignment.

Zero Hour. July 25th, a radio transmission comes into Iron Complex dispatch: “Man Down Man Down. We need help. Medical emergency. Dozer pad. Broken leg. Bleeding. Drop Point 72 and dozer line. Call 911, we need help.”

The local sheriff’s office receives a call from incident command and begins inquiring for a helicopter. Two air medical services decline the mission due to poor visibility from smoke, California Highway Patrol’s helicopter was not available and the US Coast Guard (USCG) had not yet been contacted.

Other firefighters arrive on scene. Nomex shirts are used as pressure bandages on shoulder and leg injuries. The injured firefighter is reported as having severe bleeding and being conscious. The severity of the injuries and the sense of urgency are not communicated to paramedics dispatched in an ambulance to the incident.

As the medics arrive on scene they realize the injuries are much more serious than they had been told and decide to facilitate a rapid evacuation via carryout.

Fifty-five minutes since the accident. The patient is prepared to move and the decision is made to go to the ambulance rather than waiting for the helicopter. The ambulance is approximately 2000 ft down the dozer line.

One hour and 25 minutes since the accident. A third paramedic has arrived on scene and the decision is made to wait for the helicopter. Firefighters start clearing a zone for hoist extraction.

One hour and 50 minutes since the accident. Multiple delays of the USCG helicopter are caused due to poor communications of patient status, potential use of a Forest Service helicopter assigned to the fire, and method of extraction. Once the USCG is enroute, communication about the new extraction location, radio frequencies and patient status is an issue and slows the extrication efforts. While being transferred to the hoist basket, personnel on the ground report profuse bleeding. No patient care can be given while being hoisted.

Two hours and 47 minutes since the accident. During the flight, cardiac arrest treatment protocol is initiated and the helicopter lands at Redding Municipal Airport with CPR in progress.

Three hours and 26 minutes since the accident. An ER Physician pronounced time of death, via radio. The Coroner later determined that Andy Palmer’s death was caused by excessive blood loss.

  • Identify and discuss a variety of options for medical evacuation (ATV, wheeled litter, etc.) anticipating that a helicopter will not be available.
  • If the crewmember sitting beside you were to be seriously injured on the fireline, what would you and your crew do? How thorough is your unit or IMT's Incident Emergency Plan? Consider doing a mock-up medical evaucation from start to finish. Utilize the Medical Incident Report on page 108-109 of your IRPG to effectively communicate emergency information. Assess the drill with an AAR.
Additional Resources: 

[Visit the 6 Minutes for Safety website for this and other topics.]

Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center logo2014 WF Leadership Campaign - The Resilient Team6 Minutes for Safety logo

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Food For Thought

"Leadership is not defined by your title--it's defined by your actions." - Disney Institute

"Leadership is not defined by your title--it's defined by your actions." ~ Disney Institute.

IGNITE the Spark for Leadership and "SHARE" throughout your sphere of influence.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How is Your SA?

LCES - Know your SA!

Honor Through Learning -- Cramer Fire


Incident Summary: Central Idaho including the Salmon-Challis Nat’l Forest had been in a period of drought for the last 4 years. Spring and summer rainfall had lagged. 1630 July 20th a fire is reported in the area of Cramer Creek. Jumpers are dispatched and size up the Cramer Fire at 3 acres with high spread potential. High winds keep them from engaging the fire. Firefighters are flown in to a helispot (H1) on a ridge between Cramer and Cache Bar drainages, and due to fire behavior, do not engage the fire. The fire burns actively until 0230. By morning the fire is over 35 acres.

In addition to other air and ground resources, the Indianola helicopter H193 and Helitack crew report to the fire at 1515 on the 21st. By 1952 the fire is 200 acres. At 2000 fire intensity is reported to be low yet due to a thermal belt, the fire burns actively until 0300. Around 0930 the morning of the 22nd, H193 rappels two Helitack into a new helispot (H2) up the ridge from H1. Air attack reports fire perimeter is now over the ridge and in the Cache Bar drainage. The fire is now on both sides of the ridge that the helispots are on. Fire is active below H1. The Helitack are falling large trees on H2 to clear room for medium helicopters that had been ordered for a crew shuttle. H193 transitions to bucket work on H1 at 1127 and minutes later the firefighters on H1 pull back and retreat down the trail toward the river. 20 minutes later H1 is burned over. Fire activity is reported as “intense”.

By 1430 the fire in the Cache Bar drainage is an active fire front. At 1447 plans were made to remove the Helitack from H2. At 1500 the fire on both sides of the ridge begins to spread rapidly…Both helicopters assigned to the fire are at the helibase 15 minutes away for refueling and maintenance when the Helitack call for an immediate pick up. At 1505 they call again for immediate pickup. At 1509 they call for immediate pickup and report that they are fine just taking a lot of smoke. At 1513 the Helitack report fire and smoke below them and request immediate pickup. At 1519 Helitack contact helibase regarding status of helicopter. Arriving at the fire, the helicopter is unable to land due to smoke. Both rappellers leave H2 at 1520. At 1524 the Cache Bar drainage is fully involved in fire. The rappellers make final call for immediate pickup… Both firefighters die soon after.

 Cramer 6M4S

History - The Salmon River Breaks area of the Salmon-Challis Nat’l Forest has a long history of entrapping firefighters; 161 to date. Steep slopes predispose areas to rollout and rapid, uphill fire growth commonly lending to extreme fire behavior and difficult suppression.
  • How can information about an area’s fire history help your situational awareness?
Size up – Crews are informed at the July 22 morning briefing that conditions will be getting progressively warmer and drier than previous days. Temperatures surpass 100°F and set record highs. RH’s are 10-15%. Fuels in the Cache Bar drainage are short grass on the south aspects and nearly continuous fields of ceanothus on the north. Live fuel moistures are critically low and the Burn Index (BI) and Energy Release Component (ERC) indicate dangerous conditions.
  • Based on the predicted weather and the fire information above, what are your concerns?
  • How could you and your crew safely engage a fire in a similar situation? 
L – The investigation report states that there were no effective lookouts for the rappellers at H2.
  • It is not uncommon to assign small squads to isolated tasks such as cutting helispots. The rappellers on H2 were clearing large trees to make a larger helispot. How would you and your crew maintain situational awareness of the fire and the felling operation at the same time? 
C – The rappellers were made aware of the low intensity fire in the Cache Bar drainage as soon as they were dropped off but the development of an active fire front in the Cache Bar drainage was observed by the lead plane and air attack 50 minutes before the fire reached H2. It was never communicated to them.
  • What will you and your crew do during any fire assignment to get accurate information about current fire behavior?
E and S – There were no effective safety zones for the rappellers at H2 and once H1 below them burned over, the only way out was a helicopter.

  • Helicopters have become a common resource on fires transporting us to and from remote fireline, delivering our food, water, supplies, and medevac. But what would you do if the helicopter couldn’t come? Discuss why depending on helicopters as an escape route is a bad idea?
Incident Complexities - On any incident, we may or may not be aware of problems with incident management effectiveness, adequacy of resources, or other big-picture details.
  • Discuss how you and your crew will maintain safety without knowing these things.
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Monday, July 21, 2014

Food for Thought

"Because duty can take our people into dangerous situations, fire leaders reciprocate their loyatly by looking out for their safety and well-being in all circumstances." ~ Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 45

"Because duty can take our people into dangerous situations, fire leaders reciprocate their loyatly by looking out for their safety and well-being in all circumstances." ~ Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 45

IGNITE the Spark for Leadership and "SHARE" throughout your sphere of influence. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Storm King: South Canyon 20th Anniversary

The South Canyon Fire forever changed how we approach wildfire. July 6, 1994, is a date that bonded many in a common loss, forever changed 14 families and shook communities with the loss of their finest.

Storm King Mountain, just west of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, claimed 14 firefighters some 20 years ago. Twenty years, a blink in time to so many who lost so much that day.

For Jill Hagan, the mother of Terri Ann Hagan who died that day, returning to the mountain was a chance to "… just touch the ground where [her daughter] spent her last moments."

For survivors, it was a chance to remember their brothers and sisters that didn't make it off the mountain.

For firefighters, it was a chance to recall the lessons learned from the tragic loss. One of the most important lessons learned from the fatal fire was the importance of communication and collaboration. Appropriately, it was the communication and collaboration of many across multiple agencies that helped make this event a success…

Smokejumpers flew over Storm King Mountain to honor the 14 firefighters who lost their lives fighting the South Canyon Fire 20 years ago. During the flyover, the plane dropped 14 streamers on the mountain to represent each of the firefighters.
Agencies spanning local, state and federal met for nearly a year to perfect the plan for this event. Planners had to get this right. There were logistical challenges, potential weather hazards and the safety concerns of getting an aging group to the location where these heroes fell.

The Climb

Perhaps the most difficult glaring challenge planners faced was how to get family members 20 years senior to the top of Storm King. Trails to the memorials have remained unimproved to preserve the nature of wildland firefighting and remind visitors of the perils of the job. The average age of the 14 lost is 27. The age of the parents of the lost firefighters ranged in the 70's and 80's. The obvious hazard these visitors traversing the mountain had to be addressed.

Visitors trek up the mountain to pay their respects to the 14 firefighters who lost their lives in the South Canyon Fire.
 Planners relied on the skills of the professionals attending the remembrance. Wildland firefighters from across the country made the trek to Storm King and provided aid and safety along the trail leading to the mountain. Firefighters were stationed approximately every 200 yards along the trail that crosses two drainages gaining several thousand feet. They paid their respects by helping the families of the Storm King 14 a chance to trek the mountain.

"Since the beginning of the planning process this event has been about the families who lost loved ones on Storm King Mountain," said Lathan Johnson, a firefighter with the Upper Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit. "It's been an honor and a privilege to help the families experience time on the mountain where their loved ones lost their lives."

For some family members, hip replacements, respiratory ailments and other typical limiting physical conditions made a hike to the top impossible. So, planners reached out to the Colorado National Guard to provide a platform to get family members to the top of this difficult mountain. A Lakota helicopter.

A Colorado National Guard helicopter made several trips to the top of Storm King Mountain to transport family members of the deceased who wouldn't otherwise be able to make the trip up the mountain.
Carolyn Roth, mother of Roger Roth and now in her 70s, lacked the physical ability to make the climb. "I would not be able to be here if it weren't for the National Guard,"said Carolyn.

Sandy Dunbar, mother of Douglas Michael Dunbar, recently had hip replacement. With tears in her eyes she said, "I made a promise that I would make it up here 14 times. I was so worried I wouldn't keep my promise."

Firefighters helped family members out of the helicopter at the top of the mountain so they could visit the memorials of those they lost in 1994.
Colorado National Guard's support of the missions speaks to the magnitude of this loss and the nature of it spanning so many communities. "It was our honor to support these families," said Lt. Col. Tony Somogyi of the Colorado National Guard. The support mission had specific importance to Somogyi, a Palisade, Colorado native who attended high school in the same community of helitack crew member Richard Kent Tyler. Somogyi recalls the fatal fire well and remembers the overwhelming feeling of loss he and the community felt.

The Next Generation
For a new generation of firefighters and land resource agency leaders, returning to the site of the South Canyon Fire reinforces the lessons learned.

"It was so important for me to see this important place to understand the amazing work of our wildland firefighters," said Ruth Welch, BLM Colorado state director. Ruth hiked to the site of the fatalities to pay respects and get an idea of the events that took place on the fire. "To stand where those firefighters spent their final minutes was powerful."

Mike Watson, a captain with the Prineville Hotshot crew, had read books and investigation reports but visited Storm King Mountain for the first time on the 20th Anniversary. "It's a bit of an eye opener. But for the grace of good fortune go. This could have been me," said Watson. "You can't help but look at the mountain and wonder what I would have done in this situation."

Andy Tyler, now 20, lost a father he never knew. Andy was only months old when the fire claimed his father, Rich Tyler. Hiking to the site of his father's death helped Andy understand more about his father's life. It helped him understand what his father's life meant to his friends and fellow firefighters. "I've learned that my father enjoyed helitack and making a difference. He died trying to make a difference."

Federal fire officials still study and learn from the tragedy on Storm King Mountain. Several hundred firefighters, friends and family of the fallen made their way to the summit and attended memorial events and picnics to mark the 20 year remembrance. Because of the lessons learned and observance of those lessons, the commemorative events were safely executed. Not a single injury occurred despite the senior ages of some of the family members.

The success of the 20-year memorial event is a testimony to communications across agencies and collaboration. Observing the lessons learned gives meaning to the catastrophic loss. In the end, acting on those lessons is perhaps the most respectful way to honor those who died in the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain. We will never forget.

By Chris Joyner, public affairs specialist, BLM Colorado

Reprinted from "The BLM Daily," July 9, 2014.