Monday, December 31, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

A lot of information has been shared via the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program blog this year. I thought I would share a few of the highlights and accomplishments with our readers. Of significance was the infusion of fire service videos and stories. We are beginning to share our stories and successes--to that this weary blogger is grateful!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Interconnecting to Make a Difference

I received the following comment from Debbie Wappula via our Facebook page:

"I work at a hotel. I had never dealt with a fire before and when we were home to almost 100 firefiighters over the month of October, I took it upon myself to learn everything I could as quickly as I could to help make the jobs of the overhead team a little easier...I took ICS 100, 700, and 800 online while they were here. I developed a hotel spreadsheet that the logistics guy requested when he was sent to NY for Hurricane Sandy...anything they needed, I became."

Debbie is an example to follow for our fire leaders. She willing went above and beyond her normal job duties to become a part of something bigger. Being in training, my office has addressed more requests to avoid the very classes that Debbie volunteered to take to learn more about our business. That is leadership!

Debbie in now a fan of our social media platforms and provides comments on our pages as well as supports other wildland fire partners. She embraced what many of us take for granted! Debbie became a part of our world when we entered hers. We are interconnected.

Nick Skytland, NASA, shares his experience of being a part of something bigger in an interconnected world. He shares wildland fire's connectedness with NASA during the Columbia Space Shuttle Recovery Operation. He also shares a national effort to "bring together citizens, software developers, and entrepreneurs from all over the nation to collaboratively create, build, and invent new solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to solve challenges relevant to our neighborhoods, our cities, our states and our country."

Video Highlights:
  • We are more interconnected than ever.
  • Technology is shifting the way we look at our problems.
  • Many citizens want to participate in government.
  • Mass collaboration is possible today through technology.
Teamwork and collaboration are core principles within the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP). How can we come together to make the world a better place to live and work.

The NWCG Leadership Subcommittee wants you to be a part of shaping this country and the wildland fire service for years to come. Together with the private sector and this nation's citizens we can grow and learn and be better.

Through an informal partnership with Drexel University's LeBow College of Business students have become a part of government and the development of wildland firefighters across the nation. They saw the benefits of the Leadership in Cinema program and will begin populating our library with new and innovative leadership lesson plans. This is a win-win situation for anyone wanting to grow in leadership whether a wildland firefighter or not.

I have a few questions to ask of our readers:

For more information on the shuttle recovery effort, read "Searching For and Recovering the Space Shuttle Columbia."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Best Wishes for Happy Holidays

Whatever is good, whatever brings you joy...
May it be yours during this magical season
and throughout the coming year.
Have the best ever holiday season!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ready to Launch!

After nearly a year of work and consultation with the field, the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee (LSC) is prepared to launch a nationwide wildland fire leadership campaign. The 2013 campaign, Leading with Courage, runs between January 1 and November 30 with members of the wildland fire community working together to focus on a central leadership theme and begin the process of sharing leadership success stories and resources.

The success of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program continues to be support from the field. Therefore, all those familiar with the IGNITE the Spark for Leadership initiative are asked to be the hands and feet of the effort and spread the news of this effort like wildfire. What do you say readers? Can we do this? Can we create a movement that makes a difference in the program and the development of our fire leaders? Can you take what those who came before you created to the next level and beyond? What will your legacy be?

Campaign Intent

Task: Provide an opportunity for wildland fire service personnel to focus leadership development activities on a nationally-sponsored, centrally-themed leadership campaign and recognize local leadership participation efforts.

  • To foster a cohesive effort to promote leadership across the wildland fire service.
  • To provide a template that can be used to encourage leadership development at the local level.
  • To provide a mechanism to collect leadership best practices and share throughout the wildland fire service.
End State: Creation of a wildland fire service culture that willingly shares leadership best practices in order to maintain superior service-wide leadership.

2013 Wildland Fire Leadership Campaign - Leading with Courage Reference Guide

The campaign is
flexible. Local units and crews may use or adapt any or all materials contained within the Leading with Courage Reference Guide  or develop a program or activity spotlighting the campaign theme and the Wildland Fire Leadership Values and Principles. Campaign coordinators are encouraged to think outside the confines of the template and develop a program that meets local and individual needs.

IGNITE the Spark for Leadership Contest – From the Field for the Field
Throughout the nation, wildland fire leaders are building teams and developing their people using tools they have found or developed themselves. Imagine if our leaders and their subordinates shared their experiences and successes with each other. Consider the possibility of going to the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program website and having a ready-made palette of leadership development tools—items from the field for the field—from which to choose.

Using the spirit of healthy competition among wildland fire crews and personnel, the “IGNITE the Spark for Leadership Contest” is intended to be one of the mechanisms used to collect leadership best practices to be shared throughout the wildland fire service.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ready to Lead

Doomsday. 2012. End of the Mayan calendar. Zombie war. Apocalypse. Geomagnetic reversal or pole shift. Loss of biological diversity. Solar flares. Collision of Planet Nibiru. Black holes. Global warming. Arrival of the next solar maximum. Galactic alignment. Timewave zero. Alien invasion. Photon Belt. Supernovas. Web Bot project.

Doomsday, as a figure of speech, means a variety of things to different people. Leadership can also have different meanings, but can ultimately be defined as the art of influencing people in order to achieve a result. So, doomsday and leadership? All disasters and chaos require leadership to step up, push through and overcome obstacles to return a state of normalcy.

As a leader, you provide duty, respect and integrity as your values and principles. Duties include proficiency, sound decisions, follow through and development. Team building, providing information and looking out for your people creates respect. Integrity applies to taking responsibility, improving and setting the example.

Leadership is about doing the right thing including setting a vision, direction, goals and plans. Every person has some leadership qualities. Such qualities consist of self-confidence, professional competence, sound judgment and appropriate decision making, ability to communicate and leadership styles. Leadership styles range from telling others what to do, convincing others by analyzing the good and bad, consulting others to participate in the decision, and joining others in the consensus of the decision. When disaster strikes, a mixed-style of leadership may be the most useful approach.

Whatever doomsday you may or may not think may happen, leadership will be needed and leaders should be ready. Whether to lead a group through that zombie war, to safety or shelter from an asteroid collision or evade an alien invasion, you, a leader, will be needed. Prior to the chaos, figure out what kind of leader you will be and what qualities you can improve. Take on doomsday and be ready to lead…Others will follow…


Thanks to Jenn Smith, NWCG Leadership Subcommittee Communications, for this article.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Boise National Forest Job Opportunities


Thanks to Heath Cota, NWCG Leadership Subcommittee, and the Boise National Forest for this post.

Do Your Subordinates Have Alter Egos?

How many of you are as excited about going to work as Michael Kerr?
Some might say that having fun while working is unproductive and unprofessional. The wildland fire service is no different than other organizations. We want our employees to have fun doing their job while providing safety. What fun looks like may be different for everyone, but creating a culture where our employees like to come to work often results in higher productivity and increased morale. Take a look at a few examples where people make a difference, are more productive, and are having fun.

How does your unit or agency incorporate fun into the work environment? What can be done in the government culture to have fun and keep professionalism We would like to hear from you!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Don't Like the Answer? Don't Ask the Question!

A while back a friend told a story about a conversation she had with her husband. My friend asked her husband a question and didn't like the answer he gave her. His reply: "If you don't like the answer, don't ask the question."

How many times do we ask a question hoping to get the answer we want to receive? As leaders, we need to be willing to accept whatever answer we get to a question even if it isn't what we expected.

In the blog post "Don't Ask for Feedback Unless You Want It," Ron Askenas offers the following advice with regard to feedback:
  • Think carefully and consciously about whether you really want feedback, and why. If you truly think that you could benefit from someone else's thinking, then ask for it. But if you feel confident that what you are doing or thinking is already good enough, then it's okay not to ask. In other words, don't ask for input as social convention. Do it only if you mean it.
  • If you do ask for feedback, be prepared to seriously consider it. That doesn't mean that you have to do everything that's suggested, but you should at least listen and think about it. Then give the person who provided the feedback some acknowledgement or thanks for making the effort (and maybe even an explanation of what you've done with the input).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vet Crews Taking Root in the BLM

2012 Accomplishment Story: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) This year marked the start of something new as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) created five veterans fire and fuels hand crews in 2012. A veterans hand crew is a firefighting crew staffed completely or nearly completely with military veterans. Like any other crew, these crews train hard for the job of fire suppression. When they are not being used in fire suppression, the crews remain productive by doing fuels reduction projects.

Three of these vet crews are full 20-person hand crews, and they were put in place in Las Vegas, NV; Klamath Falls, OR; and El Dorado Hills, CA. Two smaller vet fire and fuels crews were started in Spokane, WA and Medford, OR. Along with virtually every other BLM firefighting resource, these firefighters had plenty to do in 2012…

Fire crews composed mostly of military veterans were stood up in California, Oregon and Nevada in 2012. Two members of the Lakeview veterans crew are shown at work at the Lava Fire, in southern Oregon, last July.
Vet crews are unique in that they take advantage of a largely untapped human resource: capable people recently out of the armed forces. With changing military missions, many new veterans are looking for solid and challenging job opportunities.

"Hiring recent members of the military is a natural fit for the BLM," said Howard Hedrick, deputy assistant director for BLM Fire and Aviation. "Veterans bring a whole set of positives to the firefighting job, including a team focus, discipline, and a capability for hard work in difficult conditions."

The BLM expects to hire 40 more veterans for fire and fuels work in Idaho and Montana in 2013—albeit in smaller, 5-person units. Veterans have served our country in the armed forces, and the BLM is pleased to give something back to them.


Reprinted from "The BLM Daily," December 12, 2012
National Interagency Fire Center

Lots of Fire…and Lots of Safety

By all accounts, 2012 was an incredibly busy fire season for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) firefighters. Wildfires blackened 3.3 million acres of BLM land this year—more than a third of all lands burned by wildfire this year in the entire country. BLM Districts in Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Idaho were hardest hit by wildfire.

BLM engine crews, hotshots, smokejumpers, helitack crews, and support personnel spent months on fires this year. In fact, BLM fire personnel (including casual fire personnel sponsored by the BLM) worked 6.5 million hours in 2012, which equates to an almost 20% increase in overall wildland fire suppression hours worked over a typical fire season. In short, we had a lot of exposure to risk in 2012.
BLM's overall fire safety record was good in 2012, despite one of the busiest seasons in recent years.
In spite of the increased exposure to risk, however, the BLM's accident frequency rate did not increase…

The BLM fire program did see an upswing in accident reporting and more attention to near-miss events, which culturally we view as a positive signal. And though we had our share of accidents, the number of accidents did not increase commensurate with the increased exposure to risk. Further, it is worth noting that the BLM had no ground firefighter fatalities in 2012.

BLM fire and aviation personnel do a lot of driving in support of our mission, so transportation is important aspect of safety. The BLM Transportation unit at NIFC, which provides transportation support nationwide, logged over 540,000 miles in 2012 without a serious accident.

No fire season is ever perfect from a safety standpoint and some significant accident situations did occur this year. However, decisive thinking and actions by firefighters prevented more serious outcomes in a number of instances. Overall, this year's indicators demonstrate a focus on safety and good risk management decision-making. As we continue to embody the principles of High Reliability Organizations, we are never satisfied with our accomplishments in safety; however, this year's safety record is worth noting and everyone who contributed to this year's safety achievements deserves some thanks and recognition.
Reprint from "The BLM Daily," December 5, 2012.
Let us tell the your agency's fire story by sending us your successes!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Growing the Organization by Breaking the Rules

From time to time, I write about innovation. When I do, I hear the cries of the masses tell me that the fire service doesn't innovate. Well, according to Carl Bass, those naysayers may be right. The fire service as a whole may not innovate, but the individuals it employs do. Check out the video and reflect upon how you as a member of the wildland fire service can be the movement of innovation to better the whole.

(Besides, Bass shares a lot of cool stuff that will change our world in the very near future..)

Here are some highlights from the video:

Innovation is Not...
  • Invention
  • Scientific Discovery
  • Mathematical Proof
Innovation is...
  • Innovation is the process by which we change the world.
  • Innovation is about making things better in significant and meaningful ways.
  • Innovation is the practical application of ideas and technologies to make new and better things.
  • Innovation is hard.
  • Innovation requires taking chances.
  • Innovation requires challenging those things we think we know with certainty.
  • Innovation is about taking risk and breaking the rules.
Bass's Reflections
  • Nearly every company he knows wants to be innovative
  • Innovation is fundamentally not a corporate phenomenon.
    • Companies aren't particularly good at taking risk and breaking rules. They are good at making rules and minimizing risk.
  • Innovation is done primarily by individuals.
    • Companies need to hire the right people.
  • We need innovation to solve the grand challenges of our civilization.
Five Trends Affecting Innovation:
  1. The Age of Access and Experience
  2. Business Un-usual
  3. Digital Fabrication
  4. The Rise of Information
  5. Infinite Computing

Friday, December 7, 2012

Making Sound and Timely Decisions

Making Sound and Timely Decisions (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 30-32)
To make sound and timely decisions, fire leaders assess the situation, seek out relevant information, weigh options, make judgments, and initiate action as required to create a positive outcome within inevitable time constraints.

The cornerstone of good decision making is good situation awareness. Leaders can increase their decision space by attaining and maintaining good situation awareness. Decision space is simply the amount of time that a decision maker has for considering options before reaching a required decision point.

Leaders can optimize their decision space by using time efficiently. Seeking advance information in new situations or utilizing standard operating procedures for routine tasks are examples of techniques that make good use of available time.

In the wildland fire environment, decisions have serious consequences and often can have life-or-death implications for others. With so much on the line, we have a responsibility to understand the decision-making process—the components, the flow, the effect of time—and to develop the skills and confidence that enables us to make the best decision possible with the information and time available.

Decision-Making Skills for Fire Managers from David Garvin
Prescribed fire and fire use managers had the privilege of hearing from decision-making expert David Garvin, Harvard Business School professor and author of Learning in Action (recommended read in our Professional Reading Program).  Share this video with your fire team today!


Thanks to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center for sharing this presentation with all of us.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

LBE Deadline Approaching!!

The deadline is quickly approaching for this year's Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award. Visit our website TODAY!

Monday, December 3, 2012

No Time for Leadership--I'm Fighting Fire

Imagine my shock this summer when I spoke with four hotshots crews as they passed through the mobilization center at NIFC and one crew member stated, "We don't have time for leadership, we're out fighting fire." Leadership is not something we fit into our busy schedules. Fire leaders make time for leadership--not only for themselves but for those they lead and serve.

Had this been my only experience that day, I might have considered it an isolated incident. Unfortunately, few knew about, few had attended any leadership training, and even fewer jumped at the chance to take a leadership pamphlet. What bothered me most was that some looked over their shoulders at their supervisors as if to gain permission to take one. Others came to me, ever so shamefully, to whisper, "I'll take one of those." Leadership development should be accessible to all and encouraged by every wildland fire leader in the organization because every individual has a leadership responsibility.

Levels of Leadership (Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, pp. 22-23)
Leaders provide purpose, direction, and motivation to those they lead. Although these leadership requirements are similar for the leaders at different levels of an organization, the challenges faced and the perspective required to meet the challenges are considerably different at each level.

  • To become competent in basic job skills.
  • To take initiative and learn from others.
  • To ask questions and develop communications skills.
Leaders of People
  • Accept responsibility not only for their own actions but for those of their team.
  • Act to develop credibility as leaders: placing the team ahead of themselves, demonstrating trustworthiness, mastering essential technical skills, and instilling the values of the organization in their teams.
Leader of Leaders
  • Build trust.
  • Act as a conduit between the organization and the people on the ground, interpreting the vision into mission, translating abstract ideas so that subordinate leaders can take definitive action.
Leaders of Organizations
  • Manage the most complex and high-profile emergency incidents.
  • Plan for future operations as well as mentor promising people for key roles in our organizations.
  • Represent the face of the wildland fire service to cooperators, stakeholders, and the general public.
Next Steps
Leadership development does not have to be conducted in a vacuum. The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program offers a wide variety of resources for all levels of leadership. Therefore, become a part of something bigger and embrace, including the blog and Facebook presence.

In 2013, we will roll out a leadership campaign intended to bring all units across the nation together with a common purpose for leadership development. Stay tuned for more information!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy Holidays

May you celebrate
this beautiful season
with joy in your home,
peace in your world,
and love in your heart!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fighting Fire with Science

On November 26, 2012, CBS Los Angeles presented a great news story on the use of Fire Behavior Analysts (FBANs). Be sure to check out the story and journey of a few Orange County Fire Authority firefighters in "Fire Behavior Analysts Fight Fire with Science." The video highlights FBAN training at the National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute (NAFRI) in Tucson, AZ.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Leading with Silence

“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” ~ Unknown
I recently read Peter Bregman’s article “Do You Really Need to Say Thank You?” The article resonates with me following numerous conversations with coworkers and friends about the lack of feedback from their supervisors, especially with regard to e-mails and phone calls. Is this a sign that our leaders are busy preparing for a doomsday event or do they just not care about their employees?

Open and fluid communication is the life blood of an organization. Failure to respond to an e-mail or phone call can cause undo angst. Even if you cannot give full attention to the sender’s message, a simple acknowledgement of the message is respectful and the responsibility of every leader. Advise the sender that you will respond in more detail and when.

Peter Bregman says it best, “Acknowledging each other is our basic responsibility as human beings living in community with other human beings.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

They Choose To Serve in Times of Need

By day they are a fire prevention specialist in Nevada, a state assistant fire management officer in Utah, a fire equipment specialist in Idaho, a fire training specialist in Colorado and other BLM fire program professionals. But when one of their colleagues, known or unknown to them, falls victim to a line of duty death this group of BLM personnel come together to form what former Director Bob Abbey called "the very best of who we are" as people and as an agency.

The 12-members of the BLM National Fire and Aviation Honor Guard come from a variety of backgrounds, jobs and locations, but at least twice a year they train together, travel together and hone the precise ceremonial movements of their trade. Woven in and throughout those movements is a high sense of honor, dignity, and service over self in respect for a fallen colleague, bringing immeasurable comfort to the family of the fallen. . .

BLM Fire and Aviation Honor Guard members, left to right: Vanessa Marquez, Andy Rothleutner, Tommy Hayes, Juan Zepeda, Lamar Liddell, Gary Helming, Chris Delaney, Shannon Meyers, Cliff Hutton, past member Jenny Camp, Todd Richardson. Not shown, current members Lisa Kemper and Dennis Strange.
Whether they are serving as pall bearers, guarding a casket, acting as a family liaison, folding and presenting a flag, or conducting other ceremonial rites, they present a highly professional, honorable, respected and respectable face to the BLM and the Fire and Aviation Program. 
BLM Fire and Aviation Honor Guard members serve as pall bearers for Caleb Hamm, a BLM hotshot crew member who lost his life on a fire in Texas. Members shown, left to right, include Dennis Strange, Todd Richardson (partially shown at the back of the casket) Vanessa Marquez, past member Jenny Camp (partially shown), Shannon Meyers, Andy Rothleutner and Cliff Hutton.
"The Honor Guard, to me, is my opportunity to give back to those firefighters and their families that have given everything and paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting America's natural resources and the American people," says Chris Delaney, who has served as the honor guard coordinator for the group since 2005. "The profession of firefighting is more than a job; it is a lifestyle and brotherhood that bonds people unlike any other profession."
Cliff Hutton, left, and Gary Helming at the Candlelight Vigil, one of the events held during the annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Each October, the group travels to Emmitsburg, Maryland and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend held at the U.S. Fire Administration's National Training Academy campus; a FEMA/DHS facility. The weekend consists of activities and ceremonies for family members of fallen firefighters as well as a Saturday night candlelight vigil and Sunday morning memorial service. BLM Honor Guard members fill a number of roles, ranging from family escorts to guarding the memorial monument, often through the night; as well as perform whatever other tasks or duties asked of them.

Juan Zepeda, left, makes final checks and adjustments to Vanessa Marquez's uniform prior to a ceremony at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland. 
BLM Fire and Aviation Honor Guard member Tommy Hayes escorts Joy Stearns at a National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Joy's husband, Brett, was killed by a falling tree on a fuels project in Colorado.
During the week leading up to the memorial weekend, Honor Guard members participate in training or other educational exercises and meet with BLM leaders when possible in Washington, D.C. Each year they also take a short time from those endeavors to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, representing the BLM Fire and Aviation program by honoring of all who have fallen in the line of duty. The group comes together again each spring for training, group development and to ensure they are ready to respond on a moment's notice when needed.
Members of the BLM Fire and Aviation Honor Guard join military guards in a wreath-laying ceremony representing the BLM Fire and Aviation program by honoring of all who have fallen in the line of duty at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
Each member brings their own reasons for choosing to serve in such a capacity, and as a whole they form a unique and special group whose service to the BLM and the families of fallen firefighters is exceptional, distinctive and beyond the every-day call of duty.

Reprint from The BLM Daily, Monday, November 19, 2012.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

At this time of Thanksgiving the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee pauses to count our blessings:

The freedom of this great country in which we live.
Its opportunity for achievement.
The friendship and confidence you have shown in us as readers of and contributors to this blog and overall support of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program.
For all of these things we are deeply thankful.
Our best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Behind the Holiday

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and our reflection upon one of this nation's greatest leaders, President Abraham Lincoln, we share this version of Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation via the National Park Service.

Thanksgiving was first celebrated by the settlers at Plymouth in the Massachusetts colony in 1621 under the leadership of Governor William Bradford. Washington and Madison each issued a Thanksgiving proclamation once during their Presidencies. It was not until 1863, however, when Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation that the holiday was established as a national annual event, occurring on the last Thursday of November. The first observance of the national holiday came one week after the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg. The language of the proclamation is beautiful and marked by a rare felicity of expression.
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.


Monday, November 19, 2012

FireFit: Wildland Fire Fitness Assessment Battery

"Work capacity is the employee's ability to accomplish production goals without undue fatigue, and without becoming a hazard to oneself or coworkers. It is a complex composite of aerobic and muscular fitness, natural abilities, intelligence, skill, experience, acclimatization, nutrition, and...motivation. For prolonged arduous work, fitness is the most important determinant of work capacity." ~ Brian Sharkey, Fitness and Work Capacity, 1997, p. 1

As part of our look at being "fit" for command, we share with you a brief look into the Wildland Fire Fitness Assessment Battery (WFAB). Bequi Livingston, USFS - Region 3, Regional Fire Operations Health and Safety Specialist, and Dr. Katie Sell, CSCS, Hofstra University, address fitness assessments and associated safety precautions related to the assessments related to the assessments.

Check out the video highlights below. Watch the video for more information about the assessments and safety precautions when conducting the assessments.

Benefits of Conducting Physical Fitness Assessments
  • Increases the likelihood of a fitness program being able to achieve the desired fitness improvements or maintenance of current fitness.
  • Provide valuable information on current fitness status and identify weaknesses in overall fitness.
  • Serve as baseline scores or can be used to monitor progress through an exercise program.
Safety Precautions
  • See a physician to obtain agency and medical clearance, and adhere to agency guidelines.
  • Obtain the correct attire and footwear appropriate for exercise.
  • Warm-up and cool-down appropriately prior to, and following, any assessment or exercise.
  • Get educated on the appropriate tests or exercises for you!
  • Ensure that participants are briefed completely on the WFAB process and prepared.
  • Encourage hydration before, during, and after the workout.
  • If a participant feels ill or injured during the testing, have them stop the test until evaluated.
The Assessments
  • Body Composition
  • Flexibility
  • Musculoskeletal Power
  • Muscular Endurance
  • Muscular Strength
  • Aerobic Fitness
  • Core Fitness
For more information about the assessments, consult the FireFit website.

Thanks to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, Bequi Livingston, Dr. Katie Sell, Kristen Manganini, Josh Sandman, FireFit Task Group, US Forest Service/NIFC, and the Sacramento Hotshot Crew for this contribution.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ben Jacobs on Skill Sets and mentoring

In part 2 of Brian Lawatch's interview with Ben Jacobs, Fuels Management Specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, about the importance of gaining both operational and administrative skills as well as mentoring.

Video Highlights:
  •  As times continue changing, what skill sets do you believe will become most necessary for future resource stewards?
    • Become specialized in what you do but ensure that you have well-rounded set of field  skills that they can share with others coming up in the ranks.
    • Fire managers must understand resource management and issues.
    • Develop your writing skills.
  •  How important do you feel a mentor's role is in career development? And did you have a mentor or someone who inspired you?
    • The relationship between the mentor and the mentee must be positive and rewarding for both individuals. If it doesn't work with one mentor/mentee, seek another out.
    •  Learn by watching.
    • Be open to learning.
  • What is a great risk that you've taken in the past that paid off in the end?
    •  Step outside your comfort zone. 
      • Take a detail.
  • What is a setback you've experienced that seemed like a failure but turned into an advantage at some point later on?
    • At some point, you just have to let go of the negativity.
  • What regrets do you have and how have you learned from them?
    • Letting the work/life balance get skewed by prioritizing work over private life.
  • How have you balanced work with the rest of your life?
    • Make the time.
    • Take your weekends when you can.
    • Take your leave. 
  • How has the experience of working with the National Park Service added to your life?
    • Mission aligns with personal values.
  • What makes this more than a job for you?
    • Be passionate about what you do.
    • Like what you do.

Thanks to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center for this contribution.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hotshots and Hurricanes

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Jackson Hotshots - the closest and only BLM Hotshot crew east of the Mississippi River - were quickly deployed to New Jersey to assist. In fact, Sandy is not their first experience with hurricane clean-up. They also assisted with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Because of how late in hurricane season Sandy hit, the Jackson Hotshots partnered with local Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife, and Bureau of Indian Affairs to round out the crew…
Dodging downed power lines, Jackson Hotshots clear trees so that energy crews can access damaged areas and restore power to local citizens.

Primarily, the Jackson Hotshot crew has been clearing trees so that energy crews can access damaged areas and restore power to local citizens. According to the crew, most of the residents have been without power for two weeks and many have not even been able to return home due to the danger of downed power lines. The downed power lines are making the job of clearing roads very dangerous and time consuming. Slowly, but surely, the crew is making headway.
Hotshot Superintendent, Lamar Liddell, and crew survey damage to a local residence in Roselle Park, New Jersey.
Jackson Hotshots assist with debris removal in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. 

So far, the crew has divided their time between the towns of Roselle Park and Union. When asked about this assignment, Lamar Liddell, Crew Superintendent said, "It is very fulfilling to be able to help the local communities here in New Jersey. Having lived through a similar situation when Katrina devastated Mississippi, I know that our help is sorely needed and appreciated. We are here to try and help these folks get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible."
The Jackson Hotshots expect to be on assignment for a couple more weeks.

Reprint of "Hotshots and Hurricanes" as ran on November 15, 2012, via the The BLM Daily intranet blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Ask for the Opportunities" - Jun Kinoshita

In this video, Brian Lawatch interviews Jun Kinoshita, Fire Archaeologist for Yosemite National Park, about his experiences, wildland fire mentoring and career development.

Video Highlights:
  • What factors have contributed to your success in this career field?
    • Communications skills
    • Sharing knowledge with others
    • Positive attitude
  • What advice do you have for employees taking on a new position or increased responsibilities?
    • Give yourself the ability to take a step back, relax, and ask questions of the folk(s) who have been in the position or worked with the person in the position.
    • Give yourself the luxury of not expecting yourself of being proficient the moment you step into the job.
    • Give yourself time to learn the position.
  • Do you have a mentor or someone who inspired you, and how did they help you?
    • Learned from mentors
    • Received support when branching out
  • Why would you recommend a career in wildland fire to someone?
    • Fun and exciting.
    • Challenging--both physically and mentally
    • Outdoor work environment.
    • Great people.
    • Very rewarding.
  • What is a great risk that you have taken in the past, and how did that risk pay off in the end?
    • Asking to take a detail as a smokejumper where he developed new relationships and created a network outside his immediate working environment.
  • What resources would you recommend to employees pursuing a wildland firefighting career?

Thanks to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center for this contribution.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Are you FireFit?

"The wildland fire service approach to taking care of people encompasses mind, body, and spirit." ~ Leading in the Wildland Fire Service

Fitness for Command
(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service,  pp. 61-62)

Our position as leaders requires us to take people into unpredictable situations where mediocre leaders can be quickly overwhelmed in a crisis and make dangerous errors in judgment.

We accept the responsibility to demonstrate fitness for command as leaders in the wildland fire service. Fire leaders prepare for command by learning the applicable technical and leadership skills, by gaining the requisite expereince, and by developing the physical, mental, and emotional capabilities through training, certification, and evaluation of behavior.

 What is FireFit?
 The Firefit program "is a comprehensive, easy-to-follow, non-mandatory fitness program specifically designed for wildland firefighters.

Who Developed FireFit?
The FireFit program was developed by Michelle Ryerson, Bequi Livingston, and the FireFit Task Group to promote optimal fitness and decrease the number of injuries each fire season.

You and FireFit
In the weeks ahead, we'll take a look into the FireFit program. Check out the following video:

Video Highlights (See the video for specifics)
  • How to be FireFit
    • Being FireFit starts with proper nutrition and a regular exercise routine.
    • Before you begin any fitness program, it is important to remember four things:
      • See a physician to obtain agency medical clearance and adhere to agency guidelines.
      • Establish goals and make the commitment.
      • Get educated.
      • Have appropriate attire and footwear.
  • FireFit Basis
    • Dynamic Warm-Up
      • Arm circles
      • Torso twists
      • Knee li
      • fts
      • Kangaroo hops
      • Skipping
    • Cardiovascular Endurance
      • Biking
      • Running
      • Pack hiking
      • Jump rope
    • Core Stability
      • Front plank
      • Oblique crunches
      • Classic crunches
      • Abdominal Bracing
      • Yoga 
        •  Bird-dog
        • Superman
    • Muscles Strength and Endurance
      • Pull-ups
      • Push-ups
      • Lunges
      • Tricep dips
      • Shrugs
      • Seated row
      • Dumbell front squat
      • Hamstring curls
    • Flexibility
      • Downward facing dog
      • Cobra
      • Arm stretching
      • Leg stretching
  • Modular Training Exercises
    • Pre-season Training
      • Be sure to allow your body plenty of rest and recovery time while building your strength and endurance.
      • Begin with 8 weeks of moderate cardiovascular exercise and moderate strength training. Gradually increase the intensity of your workout each week.
    • Fire-Season Fitness
      • Focus on maintaining your fitness levels during this time.
      • Exercise five days a week.
      • Resting is important for your body to recover and will prevent fatigue.
    • Post-Season Training
      • After fire season has ended, focus on letting your body recover from fire season and rehab from any injuries.
      • Participate in a variety of fun physical activities to keep your fitness level up and your stress level down.
        • Fun activities such as skiing and snowboarding are great high-intensity workouts that not only maintain muscle and core strength but also build mental fitness and teamwork.
  • Exercise Tips:
    • Breathe through your exercises
    • Include abdominal bracing with exercises to engage muscles and support the lower back.
    • Ensure for muscle balance by incorporating all core muscles equally.Always  make time for rest and relaxation.
    • Always stay hydrated.
    • Maintain a balanced diet year-round.
Thanks to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center and the FireFit Task Group under Risk Management Committee (formerly the Safety and Health Working Team) for this contribution. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Honoring and Remembering Our Veterans

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" ~ November 11, 1919 proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson

The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program thanks our veterans for their service and sacrifice.

See the Veteran's Administration's website for complete information on the history of Veteran's Day.

"An Outlaw and a Hero" - Ben Jacobs

In this video, Brian Lawatch interviews Ben Jacobs, Fuels Management Specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, about wildland fire mentoring and career development.

Video Highlights:
  • What resources would you recommend to someone pursuing a wildland fire career?
  • What advice do you have for employees taking on a new position or increased responsibilities?
    • Slow down. "Get good at what you do before you move up."
    • Learn from the people that were there before.
    • Gather data and get to know the organization before you make changes.
  • What is the best career advice that you have received?
    • "You don't need to respect the person, but you do need to respect the position."
  • Why would you recommend a career in wildland fire to someone?
    • You must love the outdoors.
    • It is a rewarding career.
    • Outlet for those with a lot of energy and want to make a difference.

Thanks to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center for this contribution.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Is Your Vision a View or Purpose?

In this YouTube video, Jesse Lyn Stoner shares her thoughts on the power of vision and how vision is more than a "powerful picture." Leaders present clear purpose that is commonly embraced by their subordinates.

Wildland fire leaders must have a clear vision that is expressed through "leader's intent." Check out what Leading in the Wildland Fire has to say about the topic:

Leader’s Intent
Incidents inevitably create conditions in which it is impossible to project centralized command and control over all actions and events. In fast-moving, dynamic situations, top-level decision makers cannot always incorporate new information into a formal planning process and redirect people to action within a reasonable timeframe.

We provide leader’s intent so people closest to the scene of action can adapt plans and exercise initiative to accomplish the objective when unanticipated opportunities arise or when the original plan no longer suffices.

Leader’s intent is a crucial element of effective operations because it reduces internal friction and empowers subordinates—even when chaotic conditions prevent the chain of command from communicating effectively.

Leader’s intent is a clear, concise statement about what our people must do to succeed in their assignments. It delineates three essential components:

  • Task—what is the objective or goal of the assignment.
  • Purpose—why the assignment needs to be done.
  • End state—how the situation should look when the assignment is successfully completed.
At the incident level, the end state places the values at risk within the context of the standing incident priorities: (1) life, (2) property, (3) natural resources, and (4) management goals and concerns for the area affected.

Within the framework of the defined end state, leaders can develop plans that include incident objectives, priorities, strategies, trigger points, and contingency plans.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fall 2012 - "Two More Chains"

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) released their fall edition of "Two More Chains."

Features for the theme Wheels, Wings and Rotors include:

  • Getting There and Getting Back: It's Our Most Dangerous Activity - How Come?
    • Paul Keller reflects upon recent accidents that took the lives of firefighters.
  •  Truths: Own Your Strategy
    • Travis Dotson looks at shared responsibilities when mishaps occur.
  • Rapid Lesson Sharing (RLS)
    • Showcases the LLC's newest method firefighters can use to share with the wildland fire community lessons they have learned.
  • Shop Talk: Rock in the Duals
    • Brian Hicks presents a tutorial/video on the proper procedure to remove a rock in the duals.
  • One of Our Own: A Firsthand Account on the Dangers of Driving
    • Travis Dotson takes readers behind the scenes of the Engine 713 accident.
  • Your Feedback: How We Think 
    • Larry Sutton responds to the summer issue regarding the statement "forced to implement entrapment avoidance procedures."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lincoln & "Team of Rivals"

If you are an avid supporter of our Professional Reading Program, you very well may have taken, or are taking, part in the latest leadership challenge to read Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals." Goodwin shares her many years of research of one of America's greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

As part of a Leadership in Cinema challenge, participants are encouraged to watch Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the book "Lincoln" which premiers in mid-November. Check out the movie's trailer:


Complete information regarding the "Team of Rivals" leadership challenge can be found in the Professional Reading Program Library on the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program website. A "Team of Rivals" discussion group has been set up on in MyFireCommunity to link readers from across the nation and to support local groups.

Additional Leadership Challenge
If you have read the book, the Sparks for PRP Change need your help in developing discussion questions for Chapters 20 - 26 "Team of Rivals." Contact Pam McDonald if you can help.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The American Red Cross Launches "Wildfire" App

(Photo credit: The American Red Cross)

The American Red Cross launched their "Wildfire" mobile application this week. Consider sharing this application with members of your community during your pre-season meetings.

Application Features
  • Step-by-step instructions let you know what to do before/during/after an wildfire, even without data connectivity. 
  • Get notified about current wildfires or wildfire-conducive weather. 
  • Let family and friends know you are okay with the customizable “I’m Safe” alert for Facebook, Twitter, email and text. 
  • Find open Red Cross shelters in your area when you need help. 
  • Stay safe when the lights are out with the Toolkit, including a strobe light, flashlight and audible alert functions. 
  • Prepare for the worst by learning how to assemble an emergency kit for your family in the event of power outage or evacuation. 
  • Empower your family to stay safe and remain calm in an emergency by learning how to make and practice an emergency plan. 
  • Earn badges that you can share with your friends and show off your wildfire knowledge with interactive quizzes. 
  • See an illustrated history of wildfires in your area.

Friday, October 26, 2012

TriData Study: Looking to the Future

To conclude our four-part Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center series on the Wildland Fire Safety Awareness study, we focus on where we go in the future.

Here are suggestions our fire leaders say we should do now:
  • Run the survey again. (Take the survey for yourself.)
  • Go back and look at the recommendations to see what we have done and set priorities for those not done or should be eliminated. (Browles & Livingston)
  • Change the way firefighters are paid. (DeGrosky)
  • Keep TriData in the forefront through items like the refresher. (Livingston)
  • Prepare your workforce. (Cook)
Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study
  • Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (October 1996)
  • Phase II - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (February 1997)
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety (1998)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Focusing on TriData Study: Continuing Challenges

So how have we done? In part 3 of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Centers series on the Wildland Fire Safety Awareness study, we look at the challenges we have had addressing the 86 goals and implementing the 200 recommendations from the study.

Here are some of the challenges identified by our fire leaders:
  • We continue to have bad things happen. (Bequi Livingston)
  • Safety doesn't stop once you go home from a fire. (Paul Browles)
  • The physical fire environment has changed dramatically over the last 15 years. (Mike DeGrosky)
  • Climate change and fuels are affecting operations. (Chad Fisher and David Aldrich)
  • Decline in "militia" (non-fire personnel) involvement in the fire program. (John Glenn)
  • Proliferation of fire in the wildland urban interface.
  • Workforce retention has declined. (Cook, DeGrosky, Mark Boche)
  • A centralized focus on the TriData study has waned. 
  • Driving safety was not recognized in the study. (Sutton)
  • SmartCards were never acted upon. (DeGrosky)
  • Changes are needed with our review and investigation processes. (DeGrosky and Aldrich)
Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study
  • Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (October 1996)
  • Phase II - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (February 1997)
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety (1998)

Monday, October 22, 2012

TriData Study: Successes

We are a learning organization that looks back at our "roots." In part 2 of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Centers series on the Wildland Fire Safety Awareness study, we look at the successes we have accomplished related to the study.

Here are some of the successes identified by our fire leaders:
  • Firefighter asked for their input regarding safety. (Sutton)
  • Creation of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program. (DeGrosky, Cook, Sutton, Livingston, Fisher)
    • Cultural change
    • Awareness on human factors and how that affects behavior on the fire ground.
    • Focus on decision-making
    • Creation of experiential learning tools.
  • Better understanding of the science of fighting fire. (DeGrosky)
  • Creation of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center with a focus on high reliability organizing. (Browles, DeGrosky, Livingston, Aldrich, Glenn)
  • Right of refusal to turn down assignments. (Browles & Livingston)
  • On the job training. (Livingston, Fisher)
Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study
  • Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (October 1996)
  • Phase II - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (February 1997)
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety (1998)

Friday, October 19, 2012

TriData Study: 10 Years Later

The Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness study, otherwise known as the TriData Study, has had significant impacts on the wildland fire community since its release in the late '90s. Researchers queried approximately 1,000 firefighters and presented a three-phase study with:
  • 19 principles
  • 86 goals
  • 200 implementation strategies
Over the next week we'll focus the TriData Study featuring the four-part video series created by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.

Check out our introduction to the series today and stay tuned for what a few fire leaders have to say about the study and its impacts on wildland fire next week. This is something that every fire leader should know.

Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study
  • Phase I - Identifying the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Issues Impacting Firefighter Safety (October 1996)
  • Phase II - Setting New Goals for the Organizational Culture, Leadership, Human Factors, and Other Areas Impacting Firefighter Safety (February 1997)
  • Phase III - Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety (1998)