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.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How is Your SA?

LCES - Know your SA!

Honor Through Learning -- Cramer Fire



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

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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. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Battlement Creek Fire, Colorado – July 17, 1976

6 Minutes for Safety - Battlement Creek

It’s 1976 and western Colorado is experiencing an unusually severe fire season caused partly by unusual fuel conditions and heavy lightning activity during dry weather. A severe frost in June kills a high percentage of the leaves on Gambel oak which remain on the branches and is considered one of Colorado’s most flammable fuels. 10 hour fuels are at3-5%. A large scale high pressure weather pattern sits over western Colorado allowing for local weather to be influenced by terrain and diurnal winds averaging 10-15 mph in the afternoon with higher gusts. The weather is fair and hot with the temperatures at Grand Junction and Rifle reaching into the mid and upper 90’s. A fire is reported 40 miles northeast of Grand Junction, in the Battlement Creek drainage. The fire is burning over an elevation range of 6200-8400 ft on a steep west-facing slope.

Friday July 16, 0630, two hotshot crews from the Coconino NF Arizona arrive at the Battlement Creek fire. This is the seventeenth fire of the first season for the newly formed Mormon Lake Hotshot Crew. The strategy is to prevent western and southern spread. The crews begin a major burnout of the catline (dozer line) from the rocky bluffs (Point A) at about 1615, downhill along the catline toward the Battlement Creek road at the bottom (Point C) ending about 2030. The fire makes an uphill run in oak brush burning out a large portion of the drainage (from the road east to the ridge top) in about 20 minutes. Two “impressive” fire whirls are observed between 1600-1700. The night shift continues the burn out (Point C-D and beyond along the road) but is spotty with considerable unburned fuel remaining. Other night shift crews construct line along the ridge top (Point E to G). Based on Friday’s fire behavior, the E-G line is a crucial spot on the fire. Saturday July 17th, 0700, at morning briefing the Mormon Lake crew is assigned to burn out this section of line.

Saturday morning, July 17th - Due to a delay with the helicopter, the Mormon Lake crew does not get to the base of the rock bluff (Point E) until 1100. They are instructed to improve and burn out the line from the rocky bluff to the helispot (Point E-G). The burnout squad consisted of the crew boss, squad boss and 2 crewmembers. The rest of the crew is improving the handline down the ridge top.

At this same time another crew is burning out in the bottom of the draw (Point C-D). The draw burns readily, uphill toward the ridge and the Mormon Lake crew. Neither crew knew of the specific location or assignment of the other.

1400 - 1/3 the way from the rock bluff to the upper helispot, there is a noticeable increase in smoke from the draw below (where the other crew had been burning). The crew boss is instructed to speed up the line improvement squad on toward the safety zone (Point G) and to narrow down and speed up his burnout on down the ridgeline to join the remainder of the crew in the safety zone when his burnout was done. Upslope winds have increased to 25-35 mph.

1425-1440 – The line improvement squad just makes it into the safety zone when the flame front hits the ridge. 200 yards back, the burnout squad radios that they are “trapped”. Their escape is blocked by heavy smoke and flames.

1440 – 1445 – The squad removes their canvas vests to cover their head and face, moistened the vests and their clothes with water from their canteens, and lays face down in the mineral soil of the fireline.

1448 – All four firefighters are very badly burned.
Three will lose their lives

Discussion Points

The crew all wore aluminum hardhats, canvas vests, Nomex shirts and non-fire-resistant work pants. Fire shelters were not used. Fire shelters may have prevented serious burns and death at this incident. Policy on issuing and carrying shelters had not been established yet. This incident became the catalyst for the mandatory use of fire shelters and fire resistan
t clothing.

Action Item: Take this opportunity to inspect, repair or replace your PPE and fire shelter if needed to ensure that it protects you as well as possible

[Visit 6 Minutes for Safety to download the flyer.]

Leadership is Action - Digging a Little Deeper

Battlement Creek staff ride map


Be sure to learn more about the Battlement Creek fire via the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program Staff Ride Library.



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Food for Thought

"Perhaps the greatest leaders are the ones that are never remembered as great leaders, but great teachers and role models." ~ Don Mercer and Carlos Fontana, "Follow to Lead"

"Perhaps the greatest leaders are the ones that are never remembered as great leaders, but great teachers and role models." ~ Don Mercer and Carlos Fontana, "Follow to Lead"
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Bias for Bold Action

A Bias for Bold Action
by Bob Schoultz

I was recently invited to provide a Navy SEAL’s perspective to a conference on risk management. As I was preparing my remarks, I realized that throughout my career in the Navy, “risk management” had been inherent in my duties as an officer and leader of audacious men in high risk operations, but I had never given the concept of risk management much thought. I felt a little like the fellow who was amazed to learn that he’d been speaking prose all his life and didn’t even know it!

In thinking about it, I realized how important risk management can be to proper planning and success, but also how, if given too much emphasis, it can inhibit bold action and throw sand into the gears of progress.

Risk management is certainly an important aspect of good planning and decision making – an organization should go into any endeavor with its eyes open, understanding what could go wrong and how to manage potential impacts. Careful consideration of risk can help determine whether a plan has a reasonable chance of success, and whether potential benefits justify likely or even unlikely costs. All of that is indisputable.

But an over-emphasis on risk management can torpedo one of the most important factors in any plan’s success: Bold, confident commitment to a plan. Too much attention to risk management can focus an organization on all that can go wrong, rather than on what should go well and what bold action is required to ensure that it does.

A focus on risk can infect a team’s confidence, and over-caution can lead to inaction, or taking half steps, or playing not-to-lose. We’ve heard the catchphrase to: “Always hedge your bets,” and cautious admonitions to be prudent, play it safe, don’t expose yourself, leave yourself a way out, never over-commit. This can be practical advice – especially to ensure you get at least “half a loaf.” But, while the careful approach may sometimes be wise to ensure survival, it won’t promote bold, audacious action. And it won’t inspire subordinates to truly commit to a plan.

In their seminal book, In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman repeatedly found that great corporations had what they called “a bias for action.” They noted that “The most important and visible outcropping of the action bias in excellent companies is their willingness to try things out, to experiment…..Most big institutions… prefer analysis and debate to trying something out, and they are paralyzed by fear of failure, however small.” This was true 30 years ago, and it remains true today.

When I was serving at the Naval Academy, I presented an out-of-the-box proposal to then- Superintendent Vice Admiral Rod Rempt, to create an opportunity for midshipmen to participate in National Outdoor Leadership School courses during the summer. He responded that he didn’t think it was a good idea, that it didn’t fit, we’d never done anything like this before, midshipmen already had more options than they could manage, etc., but then he said (and I’ll never forget) “What the hell – let’s give it a try! How can I help?” Ten years later, over a quarter of midshipmen choose to challenge themselves for 24 days in the wilderness with NOLS every summer, and I give Rod Rempt a lot of the credit for his willingness to take a chance and support a subordinate leader’s initiative.

The bold leader inspires subordinates to believe in themselves, their team, their strategy, and their ability to get results. Subordinates know a risky plan when they see it, and it’s important that they trust that their leaders have competently weighed the risks involved, and share in that risk. But it is more important that they know their leaders are confident and committed to the success of the plan, and are ready to commit boldly to its execution – in spite of the risks. History is full of examples of committed and confident teams succeeding where success was deemed unlikely or impossible; there are also innumerable examples of timid leaders and teams snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Napoleon pointed out that in war, morale is to material as three is to one.

But there can be a fine line between being bold and audacious, and being blind and fool-hardy. The motto of the Navy Seabees is “Can Do,” but they also say “Too much ‘Can-Do’ can do you in.” John Wayne once said, “Life is tough. It’s even tougher when you’re stupid.” But I’m arguing against risk managers injecting too much “Can’t Do” into vision and planning.

Great leaders have a bias for bold action, but prudently manage risk. Excellent managers on the other hand, are expected to be the voice of prudence and caution, to be their organization’s risk managers, while still leaving room for experimentation and well-calculated audacity. In my own career, I have played the role of the cautious manager, raising red flags when (what I perceived to be) irresponsible and dangerous ideas were being proposed and considered. I have also been the bold, aggressive leader who my team routinely had to rein in, to make sure we didn’t get out in front of our own headlights. When the balance is right between bold but prudent leaders, and cautious but confident managers, there are few limits to what an organization can accomplish.

I was recently asked to speak on how great leaders and teams respond to chaos and uncertainty. In my remarks, I noted that bold leaders know that while chaos and uncertainty are dangerous and warrant caution, they also present great opportunities. The bold, aggressive leader will carefully watch chaos, staying alert, agile, ready to neutralize threats, but also ready to strike when opportunities present themselves. While the bold leader is wary of the danger inherent in chaos, s/he keeps the front site focused on opportunity.

When the going gets tough, the bold leader stays focused on opportunity. Chesty Puller, when told that the Chinese had him and his Marines surrounded in Korea, is reputed to have responded: “That simplifies the problem. The bastards can’t get away from us now!” He didn’t (as far as I know) then ask his staff for a risk management plan. But a good chief of staff would have prepared one for him anyway!

“The credit belongs to the man who strives valiantly; who spends himself in a worthy cause… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid who neither know victory nor defeat.” (Teddy Roosevelt, adjusted slightly…)

Manage risk, but always with a bias for bold action.


*********************************************************
The WFLDP would like to thank Bob Schoultz, retired Navy Seal commander and certified  L-380 instructor for NOLS, for allowing us to reprint his blog post. Check out other articles on Bob's blog, "Bob Schoultz's Corner."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Food for Thought

"Followers who tell the truth, and leaders who listen to it, are an unbeatable combination." ~ Warren Bennis

"Followers who tell the truth, and leaders who listen to it, are an unbeatable combination." ~ Warren Bennis

Friday, July 11, 2014

Building the Resilient Team - An Idaho Example

(Photo credit: Steve Hayward, Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security)
The Bureau of Land Management's Idaho Falls District Fire Management crews and overhead took part in what has become an annual large-scale training exercise in conjunction with the Upper Snake Interagency Wildfire Group (USIWG).

(Photo credit: Steve Hayward, Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security)
The exercise took place on Saturday, June 28, in Menan, Idaho. Approximately 12 federal, state and local fire and law enforcement agencies and over 80 personnel took part in the exercise.

(Photo credit: Steve Hayward, Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security)
Crews rotated through four stations, including a sand table exercise focused on setting up a unified command for an escalating wildland-urban interface incident that included a cost share discussion. Other stations focused on setting up tactical interoperability radio kits to facilitate radio communications, structure triage and protection, and an emergency medical incident.

Training exercise
(Photo credit: Steve Hayward, Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security)
Contact: Kevin Conran at 208-524-7602