Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2013 Paul Gleason Lead By Example Award Winner - Jim Shultz

Jim Shultz
(Jim Shultz; photo credit: National Park Service Fire and Aviation Management)
Jim Shultz
Wildland Fire Training Specialist
National Park Service – Fire and Aviation
Honored for Mentoring and Teamwork

Jim Shultz has been selected as one of the recipients for the 2013 Paul Gleason Lead by Example award. Three individuals and one group from across the wildland fire service have been chosen to receive this national award.

The award was created by the NWCG Leadership Committee to remember Paul Gleason’s contributions to the wildland fire service. During a career spanning five decades, Paul was a dedicated student of fire, a teacher of fire, and a leader of firefighters. The intent of this award is to recognize individuals or groups who exhibit this same spirit and who exemplify the wildland fire leadership values and principles. Jim’s work in support of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program has been a demonstration of mentoring and teamwork.

Jim has been recognized for his ability to develop subordinates across agency boundaries through programs like the Fire and Aviation Mentoring program and National Interagency Joint Apprentice Committee. As Deputy Commander for the honor Guards and Pipes and Drums, his calm demeanor and leadership skills helped ensure all honor guards worked together to make the Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial Service as seamless as possible.

As an advocate for leadership development, Jim seeks improvement and develop others for the betterment of the individual as well as the team and organization. This has been shown through field assignments and pioneering the Wildland Fire Leadership and Career Development video series to help young firefighters answer questions regarding the rights steps to take toward a permanent career as a wildland firefighter. Jim exemplifies the values of duty, respect and integrity.

Congratulations, Jim, on your accomplishments. You have provided an example for others to follow.


Friday, April 25, 2014

BLM Hotshot Fitness Trophy Creates Healthy Competition for Crews

With the upcoming fire season on the horizon, preparation and physical training is ramping up for individuals among the Bureau of Land Management Interagency Hotshot Crews or IHCs. During the first 80 hours of critical training, most BLM IHC's participate in the BLM National Fire Operations Fitness Challenge, and the crew with the highest average score is awarded the BLM IHC Fitness Challenge Trophy.

The test consists of four exercises: push ups, pull ups, sit ups and a 1.5 mile or 3 mile run. The individual is given points for each category which is then totaled and averaged for the crew. In 2013, the Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshots were awarded the trophy for averaging a score of 311 out of a possible 400 points and setting the bar for years to come…

The purpose of the BLM National Fire Operations Fitness Challenge is to create a system that measures an individual's level of fitness, help them create goals, track their fitness improvements and provide recognition for individual efforts. The IHC Fitness Challenge Trophy was created to take it a step further and promote healthy competition between the BLM Interagency Hotshot Crews. The trophy features two full size Pulaskis with all 11 BLM Hotshot Crew's insignias etched into the handles, multiple placards for commemorating each year's victor and a hook for hanging the current trophy holders hard hat during the year of their accomplishment.

It is important to note that the BLM Fitness Challenge was created for all fire personnel. Physical fitness is an important aspect of wildland fire that helps to reduce the number of injuries firefighters incur each year on the fire line and in training. The goal in creating the trophy is to try and reach out not only to the BLM Interagency Hotshot Crews, but firefighters in all aspects of wildland fire with the intent to help lead the way in promoting the importance of physical fitness.

For more information about the BLM National Fire Operations Fitness Challenge, please visit http://www.blm.gov/nifc/st/en/prog/fire/fireops/fitness_challenge.html.

By: Miles Bond, BLM Alaska

This story is a reprint from The BLM Daily, April 16, 2014.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2013 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award Winner - Dr. Carl Seielstad

(Charles Palmer presenting Dr. Carl Seielstad the award; photo courtesy of  University of Montana)
Dr. Carl Seielstad
Professor/Researcher and Type III IC
College of Forestry and Conservation
University of Montana
Honored for Initiative and Innovation

Dr. Carl Seielstad has been selected as one of the recipients for the 2013 Paul Gleason Lead by Example award. Three individuals and one group from across the wildland fire service have been chosen to receive this national award.

The award was created by the NWCG Leadership Committee to remember Paul Gleason’s contributions to the wildland fire service. During a career spanning five decades, Paul was a dedicated student of fire, a teacher of fire, and a leader of firefighters. The intent of this award is to recognize individuals or groups who exhibit this same spirit and who exemplify the wildland fire leadership values and principles. Jim’s work in support of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program has been a demonstration of initiative and innovation.

Dr. Seielstand is commended for visionary leadership. His ongoing operational experience as a qualified ICT3 coupled with your successful academic career as a professor and researcher for the University of Montana has provided a unique opportunity to influence students of fire—both line-going and academic. His initiative and innovation to establish the Wildland Fire Program and Prescribed Fire Practicum in partnership with the Nature Conservancy provides students with hands-on leadership and prescribed fire experiences.

Dr. Seielstad’s vision of allowing students to gain a quality education while giving them experience and practical skills provides them with the background to become highly effective fire managers. His ability to instill wildland fire values and principles into study in a motivated and safe environment beyond the classroom is commendable.

Congratulations, Dr. Seielstad, on your accomplishments. You have provided an example for others to follow.

Friday, April 18, 2014

PIO Bulletin Board - From the Field, For the Field

Today's From the Field, For the Field Friday spotlight comes from this year's PIO Bulletin Board as Public Information Officers prepare for or serve during the 2014 fire season.

Michelle Fidler, Traci Weaver, and Lori Iverson share how they use social media to share fire information to the communities around them.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2013 Lead by Example Winners Announced

Paul Gleason

ANNOUNCING…Your 2013 Lead by Example Award Winners!

The NWCG Leadership Subcommittee congratulate Dr. Carl Seielstad, Jim Shultz, Chad Fisher, and the Palomar Interagency Hotshot Crew as being selected as recipients of the 2013 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award. The recipients were nominated by their peers for demonstrating valued leadership traits during or in support of wildland fire operations.

The Lead by Example Award is based on three categories: motivation and vision; mentoring and teamwork; and innovation or initiative. Individuals and groups from federal, state, local and tribal agencies are eligible for the award.

The annual award was created to honor Paul Gleason, a wildland firefighter whose career spanned several decades. Gleason is best known for developing the LCES (Lookout, Communication, Escape Routes, Safety Zones) concept that became the foundation of wildland firefighter safety. The awards highlight Gleason’s influence on and contribution to wildland fire management, while honoring those who demonstrate the spirit of leadership for which he was known.

Award Recipients for 2013
  • Jim Shultz, National Park Service - Mentoring and Teamwork
  • Chad Fisher, National Park Service - Motivation and Vision
  • Dr. Carl Seielstad, Local/University of Montana - Initiative and Innovation
  • Palomar Interagency Hotshots, U.S. Forest Service - Initiative and Innovation
In the weeks ahead, we will showcase our winners.

For more information on the award and nomination instructions, visit the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program website

Monday, April 14, 2014

LEAD Time Needs You!

The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program is a program from the field for the field. You are the hands and feet of the program and are valued as contributors. Therefore, we need your assistance to populate LEAD Time topics for 6 Minutes for Safety.
6 Minutes for Safety is a tool created for and by fire personnel with the purpose of actively troubleshooting known high risk situations encountered on the fireline. These discussions offer baseline information that a crew, group or unit can use in many settings including incident safety briefings, tailgate safety briefings, morning briefings for example, to tailor to their specific setting, generate effective discussions, and develop critical thinking skills, awareness, and meaningful learning opportunities. LEAD Time promotes discussions specifically related to leadership.

A 6 Minutes for Safety template is available on the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center's website

Examples of LEAD Time can be found on the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program website

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Experience as a Highly Sensitive Introvert in the Wildland Fire Service

Fire helicopter
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My Experience as a Highly Sensitive Introvert in the Wildland Fire Service
by Justin Vernon

First things first, what did I just say in the title?  I’ve been doing a lot of reflective soul searching since I read Susan Cain’s excellent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking last fall.  As I read her book, it dawned on me that, hey, guess what, I’m an introvert. So many things in my life started to make sense, and I was compelled to dig a bit deeper.  I found that as introverts go I’m not terribly extreme, and I’m one of them that has developed into a capable leader with great professional people skills. I also discovered there’s another personality trait that I seem to exhibit, that of the The Highly Sensitive Person.  This Huffington Post article describes it in simpler terms, with examples that describe me pretty well.

So there it is:  I’ve got a combination of personality traits that make me a somewhat rare breed. Depending on what corner of the internet you search, it seems like it’s probably about 20% of the population that shares these traits.  And just from my experience in the workplace, it would seem that a very small number of those 20% choose a career in fire.  The job seems to attract more of the outgoing, team-activity-loving, hard-charging, action-oriented “type-A” personalities that are generally more extroverted in nature.  That’s not a bad thing at all, in fact there are a lot of times when my career would have been made much easier if I shared those traits.  I’ve had to put a lot of effort into overcoming the challenging parts of being a quiet person in a loud profession, and I’m learning every day how I can leverage my quiet skills to make a difference in a positive way.

In no real order, here are some of the things I’ve struggled with in my career in fire, from my first seasons as a tool swinger to my current position as Assistant Manager on one of the busiest helitack crews in the Forest Service.

1)  It’s hard to stand out from the crowd.  I’ll be honest, I really don’t like attracting attention. I’ve learned to accept being the center of attention when it’s needed, especially as a leader.  Being comfortable commanding attention when I need to has been a difficult art to develop, but it’s a skill that has to be in every good leader’s toolbox.  Fortunately I’m gifted in stature (I’m built like a sasquatch) and have a big voice when I need it, so when I put myself to it I can get people’s attention fairly easily.  But I’m still the quiet guy who doesn’t really take command of a conversation unless I have to.  I’m typically happiest just hanging back and listening to what everyone else has to say.  I’ll absolutely jump into a conversation if it’s something I’m passionate about, but mostly I’m happy letting others do the talking in a group setting.

It’s also difficult when the skills I do have tend to be less obvious at first glance than those of other people.  I’m great at a lot things that you don’t notice at first glance, but are vital to keeping a crew, helibase, or fire program up and running.  Let’s be honest here, I’m not a marathon runner or great hiker, I’m not the best sawyer in the world, I don’t have a ton of operations qualifications, and I’m usually not the first person to raise my hand for anything at the spur of the moment.  None of that makes me any less capable of doing my job, because I make up for those shortcomings in other areas, but it makes me less likely to stand out, and in this business it’s often those who stand out that have the most success.

2) People think I’m hesitant or unsure of myself.  I’ve always been that guy that hangs in the back of the room and observes what’s going on before jumping in and participating.  I like to thoroughly understand what I’m getting into, and I take the time to analyze the situation before I make a decision and act.  And I always like to get feedback from others, even if I’ve already made my decision.  These are all good things when working in a high-risk environment, right?  The problem here is that in a culture that prides itself on action, the time I take to evaluate and consider the scenario and outcomes is often seen as hesitation or uncertainty.  When I ask for feedback or other ideas, it’s often perceived that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m asking for help. Sometimes I am asking for help, true, but the vast majority of times I’m just making sure I haven’t overlooked something.  Projecting confidence is something I have to work on almost every day.

3) I’m extremely self-critical.  I’m constantly evaluating my performance, and weighing myself against the actions of others.  Again, this is good, right?  Well, yes and no.  When I spend so much time criticizing myself, sometimes any criticism from others, no matter how well-intentioned, is difficult to take.  Even when things go well, I’m usually getting down on myself, evaluating what could have gone better.  While this can be very useful for After Action Reviews, it can also be tough if I don’t force myself to focus on the good as well.

4) Conflict, specifically standing up for myself when resolving it.  I’m a nice guy.  My tendencies are towards being a quiet, polite, kind and caring person who avoids conflict.  But guess what?  Conflict is inevitable, especially in fire.  I’ve had to learn how use my gifts of empathy, perception, and intuition to resolve conflicts.  I’m pretty good at fixing problems using methods that are less obvious than the typical gruff, yell and  scream kind of tactics I see a lot of leaders use. My first Helibase Manager trainer was a rough and tough, my way or the highway kind of guy with a very aggressive approach to resolving conflicts.  It worked for him, but it wasn’t going to work for me, and in the course of a discussion on leadership styles he made a comment that has stuck with me to this day.  He said “Don’t ever mistake kindness for weakness.  Jesus Christ was kind, but he sure as hell wasn’t weak.”   I’ve learned how to approach conflict firmly, and confidently, but also with kindness.  It’s not easy to do, but it’s worked so far.

The good news is that there are some things I’m able to make work to my advantage.

1)  Preparation.  You remember the Boy Scout thing, “be prepared?”  Because I’m constantly analyzing and evaluating, well, just about everything, I usually have a backup plan.  Or two, or even three.  I mentally consider the most likely outcomes in any given situation, and prepare for them as best I can.  Need someone to plan logistics for a project?  I’m probably a good choice for this.  Need someone to coordinate and teach a class?  Guess who will obsess over every little detail and pull it off even if there are unforeseen challenges – me.  Is there a document that needs to be analyzed and proofed for distribution?  An aviation plan or contract that needs to be understood and enforced? Making sure time and travel is done quickly and efficiently? These are all things I can take care of, no problem.

2)  Seeing what the situation is.  Okay, so this is harder to articulate.  I’m very, very good at intuitively seeing the connections between what’s happened, what’s going to happen, and why it’s happening.  I’m able to understand complex interactions between variables, and because I pay close attention to the details, I can often see those variables changing before other people do.  I can see what’s different this time, and tell what’s going to change because of it.  I don’t have some sort of awesome super power, I’m just very good at observation, and if I study something long enough I’ll understand it pretty well.

3)  People.  Even though I need time away from social activities to recharge, I’ve come to discover that I’m really a people person.  The few years I spent outside of the lower 48 fire world, I realized that fire folks are a huge reason why I enjoy this job.  I have deep empathy for people, and that’s been a great gift because as a leader, people should be my first priority, every time.  I care deeply about taking care of those I work with, and my passion for seeing that they get the best I can provide is one of my strongest personality traits.  I’ve also been able to use my attention to detail to help with building relationships quickly on incidents.  I’ve been at this job long enough, and paid enough attention to people and their connections, that I can usually find some common ground when I meet someone new. Maybe it’s a place we both worked, someone we both know, or a big fire we were both on… I’ll usually find a connection, and that’s a great way to build teams in a hurry.

4)  Working smarter, not harder.  It’s always good to be seeking out the safest, most effective and efficient way to complete a given task.  That part of me that’s always evaluating a problem is also looking for the easiest, best, or most efficient way of doing something.  If there’s a better way to approach a task, you can bet I’ll be working on how to figure it out.  And I have no problems seeing something that works great in one place and learning how to apply it in another area.  If something already works, then I won’t be out to change it just because I can.  In my current position in fire aviation, this is an important part of day to day work, because typically the more efficient you are, the less exposed you are to hazards, and less exposure is usually good.
Which leads to…

5)  Risk analysis.  As I’ve already alluded to, I’m great at looking at a given situation and seeing the worst case scenarios.  I’m pretty talented at thinking about the “what if’s” in this business, as my mind is constantly sorting out what’s happened, what’s happening now, and what could happen.  I’m also good at evaluating how likely a given risk is, how severe the consequences would be, and how that should play into my decision making process.

I’m far from perfect, and I’m far from being anywhere near the best at this job.  There are plenty of other folks whose personalities are much better suited to the fast-paced workplace than mine.
But I’m slowly figuring out how I can contribute using my unique skills too, and as we all know, it takes all kinds.

I know I’m not the only quiet person that’s found a way into a fire career, and I won’t be the last I’m sure.  I’m hoping that by sharing my experiences I can somehow help or inspire other quiet leaders to realize that while our style and methods of leadership are different than a lot of the people we interact with daily, they can be incredibly effective.  There’s a lot that introverts and highly sensitive people bring to the table, and if they have the desire to work through the difficulties, they are capable of being leaders who are strong, charismatic, and effective without compromising their core values.

Until next time…

We would like to welcome Justin Vernon as guest contributor on our blog. Justin is the Assistant Helitack Manager for the Garden Valley Helitack on the Boise National Forest. We hope to share more from Justin in the future. Until then, check out his Chasing Fire blog

All expressions are those of the author.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Implementing a Reading Program on Local Units

Local units are encouraged to solicit ideas from local personnel about implementing the Professional Reading Program. A professional reading program can be developed on your local unit in a few easy steps that require very little effort or expense.

Start a Library 
Start by establishing a central book cache or library in your break room or training room. Designate a bookcase specifically for leadership. For several hundred dollars, a fire organization can put together a good library from the titles listed in this reference. There are many possible avenues for the acquisition of books:
  • You can ask the region/district/department to purchase them or apply for continuing education grants.
  • You can solicit books from the local community or contact service groups for assistance through monetary or book donations.
  • You can also check local or online used bookstores for books or books on tape.
Promote the Program 
Promoting the reading program is an ongoing endeavor and can be done in many ways. Here are a few suggestions: 
  • Give books from the reading list as awards and appreciations. 
  • Buy enough copies of one of the books for your whole crew or fire organization to read. 
  • Consider assigning your crew or staff to read one of the books and discuss its salient points at a crew meeting, training day, or safety session. 
  • Have topic discussions about books from the reading list. This will allow one person to relate the main topics and points of a book to a group or allow a group to compare their ideas about a single book. 
    • Topics can be assigned or selected by the participants. Assign each person a chapter(s) or book to read and brief the rest of the group.
    • Propose a topic and have people find articles from magazines, newspapers, etc., or other books that are relevant to the topic. Have crew members present their findings at a crew forum. 
  • Tie the reading program to employee individual development plans (IDPs); e.g., read a certain number of books in a given time period. Designate specific books based on the employee's qualifications. 
Keep it fun, but emphasize the importance of the program in developing a commitment to a lifetime of learning and to stronger leadership at all levels of our fire organizations. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Paul Cerda Receives The Rick Gale Award

Paul Cerda receiving the Rick Gale Award
(Photo credit: National Park Service Fire and Aviation Management)
Congratulations are in order for Paul Cerda, recipient of the second annual Rick Gale Award. Cerda, the superintendent of the National Park Service’s Alpine Interagency Hotshot Crew, is stationed at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Rick Gale Award recognizes individuals associated with the wildland fire program who encourage and assist others in the accomplishment of personal and professional goals. The late Richard (Rick) T. Gale retired as the Service's deputy chief ranger for fire, aviation, and emergency services. Many former and current employees cite him as an inspirational leader and an important mentor in their own careers.

The fire management staff from Rocky Mountain National Park nominated Cerda for his leadership skills, ability to motivate both those he supervises and those higher in the chain of command, his dedication to employee development, his vision and dedication to the program and his commitment to safety. All of these factors demonstrated his merit for this outstanding award. He is recognized as a leader within the fire and forestry programs both at Rocky Mountain National Park and in the interagency fire community.

Cerda has been a visionary in bringing the low angle rope rescue program not only to the Alpine Interagency Hotshot Crew but to the other hotshot crews within the Rocky Mountain geographic area. This program provides another extraction option in the event a firefighter is injured on the fireline and increases the entire wildland fire community’s capacity to take care of staff in the event of a medical emergency.

Cerda’s work on low angle rope rescue extends beyond the NPS’s federal partners to local resources along Colorado’s Front Range, fostering cooperation within and beyond the NPS.

His leadership in developing employees is widely recognized. The Alpine Interagency Hotshot Crew’s leadership reading program and the crew mentoring program are above and beyond what is commonly seen in the wildland fire community. His crew’s individual development plans and his willingness to provide detail opportunities to Alpine crewmembers has expanded the horizons of the individual, those who fill in behind them, and the entire crew.

It was for these reasons, and many others, that Paul Cerda was recognized. The award was presented at the Intermountain Region’s fire management conference by Colin Campbell, Intermountain Region's deputy director, Chad Fisher, acting program lead for wildland fire operations, and Sarah Fisher, one of Rick’s three daughters.

“I have been very fortunate in my career to have been exposed to so many quality leaders that have made such a positive impact in the development of who I am today," said Cerda. "Receiving this award in my eyes is truly a group effort, the folks who have made the most impacts are not limited to Brit Rosso or Jim Cook, both of whom I watched from afar as a young hotshot, but also to my captains, James and Mark, who support me in all my wild ideas, and my crew members, who drink the Alpine 'Koolaid' each year and strive to be the best for the team and themselves.”

[Submitted by Roberta D'Amico, roberta_d'amico@nps.gov, 208.387.5239]

This story originally appeared in "The Morning Report" on Tuesday March 25, 2014. Reprinted with permission from National Park Service Fire and Aviation Management.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Book on Books" - The New Generation

Students of fire and leadership are well aware of the Wildland Fire Book on Books. The document contained books and publications that provide leadership insight--whether within or outside the wildland fire environment. Since its inception, the document has grown to a size of 100 titles. To some, the list is overwhelming and discouraging in an era of declining readers, not to mention quite a maintenance task for the Professional Reading Program (PRP) stewards.

A couple of years ago, Pam McDonald, PRP steward at the time, convened a group of volunteers who engaged the program and were passionate about reading. These individuals became known as Sparks for PRP Change or SPARKS. The SPARKS quickly came to the realization that change was in order. 

From 100 to 25 Titles

The most significant change was rethinking how many books should be included in the list of books. SPARKS made the decision to reduce the number of recommended annual reads to 25. Additionally, the 25 titles would be a hybrid between the original title categories found within the Book on Books and the leader designations found within the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP).

Allen Briggs, U.S. Forest Service Fire Management Officer and SPARK, took a leadership challenge and wrote an article about the new format for Utah Fire and Rescue Academy's magazine Straight Tip (April-June 2014). The SPARKS realize that reading is personal and no list will fit for every student of fire. The intent is to launch the list and collect input. 

Entry Leader Suggested Reading
  • Fire History and Culture - Hellroaring: The Life and Times of a Fire Burn by Peter M. Leschak
  • Human Factors - The Go Point by Michael Useem
  • Lessons Learned - Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean
  • Leadership and Management - You Don't Need a Title to Be a Leader by Mark Sanborn
  • Case Studies - Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
Emerging Leader Suggested Reading
  • Fire History and Culture - Ghosts of the Fireground by Peter M. Leschak
  • Human Factors - Isacc's Storm by Erik Larson
  • Lessons Learned - Fire on the Mountain by John N. Maclean
  • Leadership and Management - The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell by Oren Harari
  • Case Studies - Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Primary Leader Suggested Reading
  • Fire History and Culture - The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan
  • Human Factors - Friendly Fire by Scott A. Snook
  • Lessons Learned - Beyond Tranquillon Ridge by Joseph N. Valencia
  • Leadership and Management - First in, Last Out by John Salka
  • Case Studies - The Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick
Leader of Leaders Suggested Reading
  • Fire History and Culture - Fireline: The Summer Battles of the West by Michael Thoele
  • Human Factors - Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell
  • Lessons Learned - The Thirty Mile Fire: A Chronicle of Bravery and Betrayal by John N. Maclean
  • Leadership and Management - The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem
  • Case Studies - Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz
Leader of Organizations Suggested Reading
  • Fire History and Culture - Tending Fire: Coping with America's Wildland Fires by Stephen Pyne
  • Human Factors - Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents by James Reason
  • Lessons Learned - Wildfire and Americans: How to Save Lives, Property and Your Tax Dollars by Roger G. Kennedy
  • Leadership and Management - Leading Change by John P. Kotter
  • Case Studies - Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge
  • Review the list and give the SPARKS feedback.
  • Select a book(s) and begin reading.
  • Write a review or start a discussion group in the Fireline Reading Room.