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.