Friday, August 28, 2015

What Almost Wasn't - The Butte Fire Shelter Deployment

Double arrow road sign
(Photo credit: Jupiter Images)
 Obviously being caught in the position we were with an entire division in front of that run was not what was intended. We actually intended to pull anybody out from in front of anything. We just didn’t have time. By the time we knew we had a problem, it was too late to move anybody. – Bill Williams, Operations Section Chief

August 29, 2015, marks the 30th anniversary of the Butte fire shelter deployment on the Salmon National Forest. In what could have been one of the deadliest days in wildland fire history, an entire division of 118 people walked away; 73 off those deployed their shelters.

We challenge you to watch the Butte fire shelter deployment video, discuss the importance of fire shelters with your team, make a commitment to checking the status of your shelter, discuss updated safety zone and escape route recommendations, and reflect upon this personal story below from blog contributor Paul Talbot about his family (Flamingo Crew Boss Terry Dunford). What happens on the fireline affects our past and our future.

The Past

More information on the Butte fire shelter deployment:
The Future - What Almost Wasn't
by Paul Talbot, Wildfire Response Lead
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

This is a picture of my cousin Mary. Mary would never have been born had her dad not survived the Butte fire shelter deployment in 1985. Her dad, Tracy Dunford, was the Crew Boss of the Flamingos you see him in the middle of the Butte Fire Shelter Deployment video and at the end saying that when he dies he’ll go to heaven because he spent his time in hell that day.

I often use this incident as a reference during S-130/190 trainings. I try to instill the fact that firefighter safety, safety zones and the shelter deployment training is of the utmost importance not only to the men and women on the line, but for who or what they will become in the future as well.

Mary was born 9 years after the Butte fire incident. At the time of the deployment, Tracy obviously had no idea what his future would hold. He could not foresee marrying Janet and creating a child who would become a beautiful, intelligent, successful and driven young woman. He could not foresee his future as a wonderful father, a great husband, or as a fire leader for the state of Utah and eventually an Incident Commander on a Type 2 Incident Management Team. Multiply that by 72 who deployed with him.

The point of this blog is to express to all of us that we are much more than firefighters on the line; we are family men and women, friends, future leaders, and good people who will create beautiful things in the future.

So keep that in mind, there’s more than just you out there. There’s you and everything you will create and become in the future.

We would like to thank Paul Talbot and the Dunford family for their willingness to share their personal story with us.

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