Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mindlessly Wandering

"We're unaware when we're mindless. Again, when we're not there, we're not there to know we're not there." - Ellen Langer
Many of you may have seen Arron Bevin's brick wall "optical illusion" picture that went viral on social media recently. I have to admit that I had to search online for the spoiler because I just couldn't find the "Waldo" element many said existed. Once I learned of said element (not going to spoil it for you), I can no longer "unsee" what existed in plain sight.

How many times have you driven from Point A to Point B and wondered how you got there? How did that person you read about in the news follow their GPS into a river? Most importantly, how do firefighters involved with fatality events often report it was an ordinary fire?

Dr. Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University, has made it her specialty to study the illusion of control and decision making. In this Mindfullness Over Matter video, below she discusses mindlessness and its affect on decision making.
Mindlessness – An inactive state of mind characterized by reliance on distinctions, categories drawn in the past:
  1. the past over-determines the present
  2. trapped in a single perspective
  3. insensitive to context
  4. rule and routine governed
  5. typically in error but rarely in doubt
Mindfulness – an active state of mind characterized by novel distinction - drawing that results in:
  1. being situated in the present
  2. sensitive to context and perspective
  3. rule and routine guided
  4. phenomenological experience of engagement
"Noticing novelty reveals uncertainty."

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper
  • Discuss with your team how mindlessness can contribute to accidents and illnesses.
  • Discuss how mindfulness can be used make your team more effective, efficient, and safer.
  • How do our values and belief systems affect our perceptions and control of a situation?\
  • How does mindlessness affect your learning?

Monday, July 25, 2016


Earn your leadership every day - Michael Jordan
Earn your leadership every day - Michael Jordan

Do your part and share throughout your sphere of influence! ‪
#‎fireleadership‬ ‪#‎fireminis‬

Thursday, July 21, 2016

IGNITE: Bring Your Best

Bring your best every day.

Bring your best every day.

Do your part and share throughout your sphere of influence!‪#‎fireleadership‬ ‪#‎fireminis‬

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Is Stinging in Your Nature?

(Photo credit: Christy Pack)
"To be effective, leaders must earn the trust of others."
Trust is a "firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something." Trust, however, is not something that is easily given. In fact, the element of fear can be a barrier to building trust in a relationship.

Monday, July 18, 2016


"Lousy leaders worry about receiving respect, but not showing it." - Dan Rockwell
(Photo credit: The Leadership Freak)
"Lousy leaders worry about receiving respect, but not showing it." - Dan Rockwell

Read Dan Rockwell's blog on the topic @ http://bit.ly/29SoAPg

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Battlement Creek Fire, Colorado – July 17, 1976

Battlement Creek Fire, Colorado – July 17, 1976

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 at 3-5%. 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 resistant 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

Leadership is Action - Digging a Little Deeper
Be sure to learn more about the Battlement Creek fire via the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program Staff Ride Library.
This Day in Wildland Fire History logo

Thursday, July 14, 2016

IGNITE: Never Stop Learning

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn - John Cotton Dana

Do your part and share throughout your sphere of influence!
#‎fireleadership‬ ‪#‎fireminis‬

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

BRAIN RULES - 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

Brain Rules by John Medina


“We learned to cooperate, which means creating a shared goal that takes into account our allies’ interests as well as our own. In order to understand our allies’ interests, we must be able to understand others’ motivations, including their reward and punishment systems. We need to know where their ‘itch’ is. To do this, we constantly make predictions about other people’s mental states.”

“The brain acts like a muscle: The more activity you do, the larger and more complex it can become. Whether that equates to more intelligence is another issue, but one fact is indisputable: What you do in life physically changes what your brain looks like.” 

Leadership is at its core a human interaction. Understanding human factors, including the way our brains work to interpret what happens around us, is an important part of being a competent leader. In Brain Rules, molecular biologist John Medina takes a closer look at what goes on in our heads – how our brains work – and how that influences everything we do, whether we realize it or not.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Always do more than is required of you. - George Patton

Always do more than is required of you. - George Patton

Do your part and share throughout your sphere of influence!‪#‎fireleadership‬ ‪#‎fireminis‬

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Thirtymile Fire – July 10, 2001 - Washington

Thirtymile fire memorial

Incident Summary
The Chewuch River runs down a deep "V" canyon with 70% to 100% slopes and little elevation change along the canyon floor. The SW to NE orientation of the canyon aligns with afternoon ridge and upcanyon winds. Dead fuel moistures are 10 hour at 3%, 100 hour at 5%, and 1000 hour at 10% (historic lows) and live fuels generally less than 100%. Ladder fuels are abundant on the canyon floor and riparian fuels are dry enough to support surface fire and torching throughout the night of July 9th and into the morning of July 10th. Crown fuels are dense and drought stressed. The temperature reaches 94° F with an RH of 8% along the canyon floor.
  • Local firefighters considered it unusual for green foliage to be burning like it was for this time of year. If you are not familiar with local conditions of a fire you are being dispatched to, what are some quick and effective tools you can use to gain an understanding of that area?
9:26 p.m., July 9th a fire is reported near the road along the Chewuch River. The fire is about five acres with two spots ahead of it. An engine with 3 firefighters arrives just after 11 pm. One engine arrives just before midnight. An IHC arrives at 1:00 am after working another fire all day and having had only 30 minutes of sleep. The engine departs the fire around 1:30 am. A local Type 2 crew is called up just after midnight. A majority of the crew has had only one or two hours of sleep. By 5:30 am July 10th there are seven spots covering about five to six acres. Two spots are about an acre each.
  • Identify and discuss the red flags that “pop-up” during this 8 hour period. If this was your crew, what would you be doing to identify and mitigate them?
At 7:00 am the Type 2 crew gets a briefing at a ranger station prior to heading to the fire and is informed that they will be doing mop-up. They arrive at the fire at 9:00 am. The IHC leaves the fire for rest at 11:00 am. Mid-morning fire intensity increases with more frequent torching and increasingly longer spotting distances. By about noon the crew is experiencing difficulties with the pumps and multiple broken handtools. Just after noon the IC requests additional resources including a helicopter. The IHC returns to the fire around 2:00 pm with less than 3 hours of rest.
  • Though water was readily available, relatively little was applied to the fire during the night and morning. This was largely due to operational problems with pumps and hoses, as well as delays in availability of a helicopter. In this situation, how would you and your crew adapt your tactics and develop your trigger points?
The fire has been burning through hoses and spotting over the line. The IC pulls the crew back to the road and accepts the fact that the fire was lost. At 3:00 pm the Type 2 crew is joined by the IHC at the "safety zone" on the west side of the river. The helicopter makes water drops on small spots on the south edge of the fire until having to refuel. The fire had spread up the east canyon walls and soon after had moved back to the canyon floor with spotting on the west wall of the canyon. At 3:20 pm, the fire is 50 acres, crowning and going to the ridge. At 3:35 pm the fire is 100 acres.

Two engines are ordered and arrive around 3:30 pm neither checking in with the IC nor receiving a tactical briefing. One engine crew radios for help with a spot. One, then eventually all of the squads of the Type II crew are sent to assist the engines with spots along the road. Minutes later the fire is actively spotting and is burning right up to the east side of the road. Some firefighters quickly drive back down the road to their “safety zone" shielding their faces from the intense heat as they pass the fire. 4:03 pm the Thirtymile Fire is forming its own thunderhead. A call is made to the other firefighters to get everyone out of the area. 4:34 pm, as the firefighters attempt to retreat they see a "wall of flames," and quickly turn around and drive up the canyon. 5:00 pm the fire is over 500 acres.
  • Records indicate that firefighters on the Thirtymile Fire had very little sleep prior to their assignments, and mental fatigue affected situational awareness and decision-making. How can you recognize fatigue in yourself and in your crew/team? Discuss what you WILL do about it?
The fire makes a strong up-canyon run. 5:24 pm, roaring, ash and a “fire snowstorm” abruptly overwhelm the area and surprises the crew. Cut off from their only escape route, back down the road, 8 firefighters and 2 civilians deploy on the road and 6 firefighters on the talus slope. 4 firefighters do not survive.
Thirtymile fire progression map
  • 4 of the 6 firefighters that deployed on the talus slope did not survive. Using pages 30-31 in your IRPG, discuss the features of an optimal and survivable deployment site. Practice looking for them on PT hikes, patrolling the fireline, and while prepping prescribed burn units.
Thirtymile map

Digging a Little Deeper
This Day in History is a brief summary of a powerful learning opportunity and is not intended to second guess or be judgmental of decisions and actions. Put yourself in the following situation as if you do not know what the outcome will be.
  • What are the conditions? 
  • What are you thinking? 
  • What are YOU doing?

Thirtymile Fire Investigation Report
Staff Ride

This Day in History is a collaborative project between 6 Minutes for Safety and the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.
This Day in Wildland Fire History logo