Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More Than a Resource

Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew logo

From equipment to personnel, the world of wildland fire is made up of resources. Unless you are ordered as a single resource, your identity is attached to that of your crew, base or piece of equipment. Rarely will your name appear anywhere but on a manifest. During the Yarnell Hill fire, the Granite Mountain Hotshots were assigned as "C-5" on a crew resource order. On June 30, 2014, we didn't just lose a crew, we lost 19 individuals.

Like many of you, I have struggled with the death of these 19 firefighters, the near-death of another and those who rescued him. I've studied the readily-available information and talked with those in my sphere of influence who knew members of the crew, but more questions than answers remain.

There will never be just ONE thing that can forever change to stop a similar incident from occurring in the future. Details may surface, that shed some light on the tragedy, but the point of this blog is to recognize the individual lives lost. This crew was made up of husbands, boyfriends, fathers, sons, brothers, grandsons, nephews, cousins, friends, church leaders, athletes, veterans, soul mates, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, partiers, exceptional students, Boy Scouts, lovers, speakers, advocates, biologists, naturalists, bikers, motorcyclists, students of fire and leadership, outdoorsmen, EMTs, carpenters, readers and writers. Each one was more than a resource. These multi-faceted individuals added value and purpose to their families--be it blood, affinity, or work.

Andrew Ashcraft
Robert Caldwell
Travis Carter
Dustin DeFord
Christopher MacKenzie
Eric Marsh
Grant McKee
Sean Misner
Scott Norris
Wade Parker
John Percin
Anthony Rose
Jesse Steed
Joe Thurston
Travis Turbyfill
Billy Warneke
Calyton Whitted
Kevin Woyjeck
Garrent Zuppiger

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Post-thought: Books and movies will be written; each giving us some perspective--right or wrong--of the individuals, the crew, the fire and those involved in the fire operations and accident investigation. We should always remember to temper our thoughts and actions with care and compassion. Our values of duty, respect and integrity will provide the mechanism to deal with whatever surfaces; care and compassion will form the bond that holds us together.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Take 5@2 - June 30 - July 5, 2015



Share this Take 5 @ 2 introduction video throughout your sphere of influence and stay tuned this week as we discuss each topic.

The “Take 5@2” safety messages are a cooperative project of 6 Minutes for Safety, the Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR), NIFC External Affairs, the NWCG Leadership Committee, the NWCG Risk Management Committee, and the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.

IGNITE: Moral Courage

An outgrowth of strong character, moral courage enables us to build trust with our teams and gain respect from peers. – Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 64
An outgrowth of strong character, moral courage enables us to build trust with our teams and gain respect from peers. – Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 64
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Friday, June 26, 2015

North Carolina Interagency Workshop - Working with HART


North Caroline Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team

On June 18 the North Carolina State Forest Service (NCFS) sponsored a 4-hour interagency workshop with the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team (NC HART). Attendees included firefighters and managers from NCFS, USFS, and local fire departments. Ron Hollifield, Regional Forester for the NCFS, was instrumental in holding this session.

North Caroline Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team
The NC HART is the only program in the nation that utilizes a military aircraft staffed with non-military Rescue Technicians in cooperation with the NC Army National Guard, NC State Highway Patrol, NC Emergency Management, and municipal fire departments throughout North Carolina.  It is managed through the NC Department of Public Safety.  

North Caroline Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team
North Caroline Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team

 The helicopter used on this day is a UH-60L with both short-haul and hoist capabilities. [The fleet consists of two other helicopters a UH-72 Lakota (hoist only) and a Bell 407 (short haul only.)] 

Workshop with North Caroline Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team

 The workshop consisted of classroom presentation on the program and capabilities, a field session with the pilot, crew chiefs, and rescue technicians (here from the Charlotte Fire Department) and then a live demonstration. 
 
 For more information, contact Ron Hollifield or Riva Duncan for more information.

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Thanks to Riva Duncan, US Forest Service R8 FMO, for sharing this post.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

IGNITE: Ethical High Ground

Wildland fire leaders demonstrate moral courage by adhering to high ethical standards and choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong. –Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 63
Wildland fire leaders demonstrate moral courage by adhering to high ethical standards and choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong. – Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, page 63
IGNITE the Spark for Leadership. LIKE and SHARE throughout your networks. ‪#‎fireleadership‬ ‪#‎fireminis‬

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lessons from the Mudd Fire Staff Ride

Mudd Fire Staff Ride
(Mudd Fire Staff Ride; photo credit, Elko BLM)
On June 12 following the state's Engine Operator Course, the Elko District BLM conducted the Mudd Fire Staff Ride for 35 participants from Ely BLM, Elko BLM, and Battle Mountain BLM.
Mudd Fire Staff Ride
(Mudd Fire Staff Ride; photo credit, Elko BLM)
Incident Background

Mudd Fire Staff Ride
(Mudd Fire Staff Ride; photo credit, Elko BLM)
Northern Nevada was experiencing a record breaking fire season in 2006 with resources from throughout the nation either responding to incidents or staging in the Elko area. 

The Mudd fire started on August 23, 2006 at approximately 2:59 (Pacific Standard Time) from diesel exhaust just northwest of Adobe Summit on State Route 225. Interagency suppression forces were dispatched to the reported fire, 10 miles North of Elko, NV along State Route 225. Rapid fire growth and rugged topography dictated the need for several access routes into the emerging incident. 

With ground resources rendezvousing at different points around the fire, coordination of suppression tactics became increasingly difficult and some communication channels were either compromised or non-existent. The conditions and events that occurred during the Initial Attack phase of the Mudd Fire would, in the end, lead to a fire entrapment situation.

Staff Ride Resources


  • Mudd Fire Staff Ride Website (includes participant and facilitator guides, electronic presentation, and more)

  • Mudd Fire Staff Ride
    (Mudd Fire Staff Ride; photo credit, Elko BLM)

    Tuesday, June 23, 2015

    What is Wisdom and How Can It Be Attained

    Several small items from a journal with sketches to herbs lay on a wood table
    (Photo credit: Photodisc)
    By Cameron Cota

    Most think of wisdom as interchangeable with the word knowledge. It is not. Knowledge is to know something; wisdom is to put it to practice. These two go hand-in-hand, yet they are not the same.

    Knowledge can be obtained through study, but to gain wisdom a second element must be added: hard work. Wisdom must be gained through personal experience. Ben Franklin once said, “The doors of wisdom are never closed.” Wisdom must always be sought out, practiced; else it be tucked away, never to be used. Wisdom is also ever abounding. With each new scenario, new wisdom is gained. Once a person thinks to himself, “I have learned all there is to know.” All his wisdom has been lost, for that thought is merely another way of saying, “I don’t want to learn any more.” Personal experience and a passion for wisdom are the key ingredients for a wise mind.

    In reading this essay, I hope your eyes have been opened to wisdom, it’s definition, and it’s attainability. My hope for you is that the fire of the pursuit of wisdom will be fueled and that you will never again confuse knowledge with wisdom.

    *************************
    Cameron Cota is the 15-year old daughter of Heath Cota, Sawtooth National Forest - Minidoka District FMO and member of the NWCG Leadership Committee. All expressions are those of the author. "Do Great Leaders or Ordinary People Make History" was an in-class essay for Cameron's history class. This is the first of two essays.

    Today's blog entry is a testament to the power of influence. Leadership is an art that transcends boundaries. As Heath told me when he shared Cameron's essays, "It speaks of a lifelong study of leadership; and if you think that your subordinates see and hear all, even more so do our children." 

    Are you influencing beyond the fireline? We would love to share your stories.

    Monday, June 22, 2015

    IGNITE: Doing It Right

    If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? –John Wooden
    If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? – John Wooden
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    Friday, June 19, 2015

    Wesley Fire Staff Ride

    Wesley Fire Staff Ride
    (Jason Greenway, PAF, leading the emergency consultations that were put into place during suppression operations on the 2012 Wesley Fire; credit: Dana Skelly)
    Wesley Fire Staff Ride Overview
    September 2015

    In July 2014, the Payette National Forest (PAF) was contacted by Dana Skelly, Fuels Program Manager for the Malheur National Forest, inquiring about the potential for conducting a resource advisor (READ) staff ride for the Wesley Fire. Dana was a task force leader (TFLD) on the rehab/recovery division of the Wesley Fire and was impressed by the READ program on the PAF. The Malheur experienced a busy fire season in 2014, with multiple “project” fires and a need for an extensive group of READs. The majority of the READs on the Malheur were fairly new and their program was not as well developed as the one on the PAF.

    On September 30, 2014, a group of approximately 15 from the Malheur made a 1-day visit to the PAF. The day was led by J. Greenway, an experienced PAF READ and member of the PAF READ cadre and line/duty officers were represented by G. Lesch and C. Ramirez respectively.

    The Preliminary Study
    The group convened at the Council Ranger District, where they were presented an overview of the PAF READ program in general, followed by an overview of the Wesley Fire and the resource issues that arose during that incident. 

    Main topics discussed included:

    • Overview of the PAF READ program and the tools we have developed, including our READ maps, READ guidelines, and fireline-friendly pocket guides
    • Overview of the Wesley Fire chronology and the resource concerns that arose during the incident
    • Use of heavy equipment in bull trout critical habitat: consultation procedures and mitigation measures
    • Discussion of implementing a rehab division as part of the IMT, and the benefits to the Forest and the incident READs
    The Field Study
    The group visited the Bear Creek portion of the Wesley Fire, with stops at the Bear Workcenter and the fire area in the upper part of the Bear Creek subwatershed to discuss specific resource concerns that developed during the incident. Greg Lesch and Christian Ramirez also provided insight to the incident, and large incidents in general, from the line/duty officer perspective.

    The Integration Phase
    Personnel from the Malheur were eager to learn from our READ program and began developing their own READ resources and guidelines when they returned to their respective home units. All involved were very appreciative of the time we spent to share our information and experiences with them. The staff ride was a great opportunity to build relationships across forests/regions and to share information, knowledge, and challenges that are associated with the READ position. This may also lead to cross-forest assignments that would provide off-forest experience and training for READs from both forests.

    Thursday, June 18, 2015

    IGNITE: The Art of Leadership

    Leading and following are both an art and a science in which we use our heads to manage and our hearts to lead.  –Jane Perdue
    Leading and following are both an art and a science in which we use our heads to manage and our hearts to lead. – Jane Perdue
      IGNITE the Spark for Leadership and SHARE throughout your networks. ‪#‎fireleadership‬ ‪#‎fireminis‬