Friday, July 29, 2016

Reader's Intent - Yes to the Mess

What on earth does Jazz have to do with wildland fire? I'm guessing that more than a few people have asked that question since we rolled out the 2016 Professional Reading Program book list, and they saw that the focus title was a book on leadership and improvisational jazz.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

IGNITE: The Art and Science of Leading and Following

Pic: Leading and following are both an art and a science in which we use our heads to manage our our hearts to lead. - Jane Perdue
Leading and following are both an art and a science in which we use our heads to manage our our hearts to lead. - Jane Perdue
Do your part and share throughout your sphere of influence!
#‎fireleadership‬ ‪#‎fireminis‬

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mindlessly Wandering

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 25, 2016


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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016

IGNITE: Bring Your Best

Bring your best every day.

Bring your best every day.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Is Stinging in Your Nature?

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

Monday, July 18, 2016


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

Read Dan Rockwell's blog on the topic @

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Battlement Creek Fire, Colorado – July 17, 1976

Battlement Creek Fire, Colorado – July 17, 1976

It’s 1976 and western Colorado is experiencing an unusually severe fire season caused partly by unusual fuel conditions and heavy lightning activity during dry weather. A severe frost in June kills a high percentage of the leaves on Gambel oak which remain on the branches and is considered one of Colorado’s most flammable fuels. 10 hour fuels are at 3-5%. A large scale high pressure weather pattern sits over western Colorado allowing for local weather to be influenced by terrain and diurnal winds averaging 10-15 mph in the afternoon with higher gusts. The weather is fair and hot with the temperatures at Grand Junction and Rifle reaching into the mid and upper 90’s. A fire is reported 40 miles northeast of Grand Junction, in the Battlement Creek drainage. The fire is burning over an elevation range of 6200-8400 ft on a steep west-facing slope.
Friday, July 16, 0630: Two hotshot crews from the Coconino NF Arizona arrive at the Battlement Creek fire. This is the seventeenth fire of the first season for the newly formed Mormon Lake Hotshot Crew. The strategy is to prevent western and southern spread. The crews begin a major burnout of the catline (dozer line) from the rocky bluffs (Point A) at about 1615, downhill along the catline toward the Battlement Creek road at the bottom (Point C) ending about 2030. The fire makes an uphill run in oak brush burning out a large portion of the drainage (from the road east to the ridge top) in about 20 minutes. Two “impressive” fire whirls are observed between 1600-1700. The night shift continues the burn out (Point C-D and beyond along the road) but is spotty with considerable unburned fuel remaining. Other night shift crews construct line along the ridge top (Point E to G). Based on Friday’s fire behavior, the E-G line is a crucial spot on the fire.

Saturday, July 17th, 0700, at morning briefing: The Mormon Lake crew is assigned to burn out this section of line.

Saturday morning, July 17th: Due to a delay with the helicopter, the Mormon Lake crew does not get to the base of the rock bluff (Point E) until 1100. They are instructed to improve and burn out the line from the rocky bluff to the helispot (Point E-G). The burnout squad consisted of the crew boss, squad boss and 2 crewmembers. The rest of the crew is improving the handline down the ridge top.

At this same time another crew is burning out in the bottom of the draw (Point C-D). The draw burns readily, uphill toward the ridge and the Mormon Lake crew. Neither crew knew of the specific location or assignment of the other.

1400: 1/3 the way from the rock bluff to the upper helispot, there is a noticeable increase in smoke from the draw below (where the other crew had been burning). The crew boss is instructed to speed up the line improvement squad on toward the safety zone (Point G) and to narrow down and speed up his burnout on down the ridgeline to join the remainder of the crew in the safety zone when his burnout was done. Upslope winds have increased to 25-35 mph.

1425-1440: The line improvement squad just makes it into the safety zone when the flame front hits the ridge. 200 yards back, the burnout squad radios that they are “trapped”. Their escape is blocked by heavy smoke and flames.

1440-1445: The squad removes their canvas vests to cover their head and face, moistened the vests and their clothes with water from their canteens, and lays face down in the mineral soil of the fireline.

1448: All four firefighters are very badly burned.
Three will lose their lives.

Discussion Points
The crew all wore aluminum hardhats, canvas vests, Nomex shirts and non-fire-resistant work pants. Fire shelters were not used. Fire shelters may have prevented serious burns and death at this incident. Policy on issuing and carrying shelters had not been established yet. This incident became the catalyst for the mandatory use of fire shelters and fire resistant clothing.

Action Item
Take this opportunity to inspect, repair or replace your PPE and fire shelter if needed to ensure that it protects you as well as possible

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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

IGNITE: Never Stop Learning

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

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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

Brain Rules by John Medina


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

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

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

Monday, July 11, 2016


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

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

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

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Thirtymile Fire – July 10, 2001 - Washington

Thirtymile fire memorial

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

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

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

Thirtymile Fire Investigation Report
Staff Ride

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

Friday, July 8, 2016

How Working In Wildland Fire Can Change Your Life For The Better

Wildland fire
It becomes a home and family for so many, and that isn't something that you can find in every career.

I’ll be the first to say that wildland fire was never something that I was interested in. For the first 17 years of my life I didn’t even know that there was a difference between firefighters who protected our homes and firefighters who protected our land. Fortunately for me, the summer after my freshman year of college, I found myself working as a dispatcher for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in a center that focuses strictly on wildland fire and their personnel. And much to my surprise, this was one of the best decisions and opportunities that I could have ever received.

Working as a dispatcher, I don’t interact directly with the fires, which is fine by me because honestly I’m a little afraid of them. However, over the past three years I have been fortunate enough to interact directly with many of the firefighters, overhead, and personnel who face that fear all summer long and fight wildland fires to keep us well as those who offer support for the firefighters out in the field, so that we can protect them too. All of these people are different—they walk different styles of life and provide vastly different perspectives not only on fire, but on the ways of the world. However, there is one thing that every person I have ever met within the fire community has in common; an unwavering respect and support for themselves, those around them, and the land that they are working so hard to protect. These people love what they do, they love who they work with, and they have a unique passion for adventure and risking their lives to help keep our land beautiful and safe. These are some of the hardest workers I have ever known and some of the funniest and most honest influences that I didn’t know I needed in my life. Over the past three summers that I have returned to my hometown to work in our dispatch center, they have become my family.

Aside from gaining this family, I have gained knowledge about many aspects of the world that I would have never given a second thought. I have seen the ins and outs of working with the federal government, and I have a new respect for the many processes and people that are put into place in order to protect the land that we live on. I have been pushed out of comfort zone and have been challenged to keep learning and go as far as I can in my knowledge about this job. I have worked with people who believe in me, teach me, still like me even when I mess things up(which is quite often much to my dismay), and give me something to look forward to when I go home for the summer. I have learned far more than I ever would have about weather conditions, the lay of the land, the importance of fully putting out a campfire, and the significance of a lat/long from the point of origin on a fire. While providing entertainment to those around me, I also I learned that I am awful at sharpening tools, it is not smart to wear ankle socks when you will also be wearing hiking boots and digging fire line, copy machines never work the way that you want them too, and it is near impossible to read the weather over the radio when the Barney song starts playing on your coworker's computer.
Kelsey Kimber (left)
Kelsey Kimber (left) in the field.
Needless to say, this job has been an opportunity that I am so thankful for. I’ve learned a ton, met some of the best people that I will ever know, and have been able to put my earnings towards my college degree, which is something that I will be eternally grateful for. And while this article only states my personal opinion, I know that many of the things that I have said here would resonate with the firefighters, overhead, and fellow dispatchers alike who have made this a career. There are so many fire personnel that I have met in the past three years, who ended up making fire their lifelong path, when like me, they had only planned on working in fire as their summer job. I truly believe that this is because the people you meet and the experiences that you get during your years as firefighter (or in my case, a dispatcher) make it a hard place to leave. It becomes a home and family for so many, and that isn't something that can you find in every career.

Kelsey Kimber is a dispatcher at the Elko Interagency Dispatch Center. We acknowledge Kelsey for putting herself "out there" as a means to make a difference following a statewide preparedness review. All expressions are those of the author.

Special shout out to Mike Ellsworth for his inspiration and sharing of this resource.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

IGNITE: Followership to Leadership

The greatest gratification comes when the student outgrows the teacher. –Jesse Lyn Sto

The greatest gratification comes when the student outgrows the teacher. – Jesse Lyn Sto

Do your part and share throughout your sphere of influence!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

2016 Direction to Wildland Fire Leadership

June 29, 2016
To: Chief, U.S. Forest Service
Director, Bureau of Land Management
Director, National Park Service
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs
From: Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior
Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
Subject: 2016 Direction to Wildland Fire Leadership
The greatest losses during the 2015 wildfire season involved the fatalities of 13 wildland firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the lives of others and the lands and resources we are entrusted to manage. The 2015 wildfire season is now the costliest on record. During the 2015 wildfire season, the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service alone spent $1.7 billion, while the Department of the Interior spent $417.5 million to manage 68,151 fires that burned 10,125,149 acres, the highest total since recordkeeping began in 1960. We anticipate the 2016 wildfire season to be another challenging year.

Day 7: How do all pieces fit together for optimal performance?

Day 7: How do all pieces fit together for optimal performance?

Day 7: How do all pieces fit together for optimal performance? 
Week of Remembrance June 30-July 6 

The past 6 days have been spent exploring core aspects of optimal human performance. As fire professionals we are often asked to perform optimally in a changing, dynamic environment. Like a buffet is full of different food options to fill your plate – you may like some things and dislike others, but creating a balanced plate with foods from all major food groups will lead to the best option for fueling the body. The same is true for human performance. By building and preparing yourself physically and psychologically each day to face the demands of the environment, or that “mountain to climb” you will be more able to operate soundly, effectively, and safely.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Day 6: Human Limitations

Day 6: Human Limitations
Day 6: Human Limitations 
Week of Remembrance June 30-July 6

Understanding our operational environment is critical to effective decision making that leads to safe mission accomplishment. Situation awareness is an ongoing process of gathering information by observation and communication with others. This process must be ongoing because our environment is constantly changing. Every second our brains are bombarded with about 11 million bits of information yet it can only process about 40. Understanding this human limitation means we must make the most out of every observation and ensure we communicate what we are seeing with those around us.

Fit for Command - Firefighter Footcare

Fit for Command
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 experience, and by developing the physical, mental, and emotional capabilities through training, certification, and evaluation of behavior.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Day 5: Leadership and Human Performance

Day 5: Leadership and Human Performance 
Week of Remembrance June 30-July 6

Recent research in the wildland fire community has shown that the most highly regarded, highest performing, and safest leaders are those who are more mindful of themselves, others, and the environment (Waldron & Ebbeck, 2015). Leadership begins by knowing and leading oneself, followed by leading others. Like a compass guiding the direction through changing terrain, knowing and being mindful of one’s deepest motives and desires (values) as a leader can serve as an internal guide to leading the self and others through the easiest and most difficult situations. By exploring, identifying and being aware (or mindful) of your deepest motives for how you want to behave and act as a person and leader on an ongoing basis will enable you to lead yourself and others most effectively.

IGNITE: Freedom is the open window...

Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity. – Herbert Hoover
Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity. – Herbert Hoover
Do your part and share throughout your sphere of influence!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Day 4: Situational Awareness and Mindfulness

Day 4 Situational Awareness and Mindfulness Week of Remembrance June 30-July 6

Day 4: Situational Awareness and Mindfulness 
Week of Remembrance June 30-July 6 

Applying Situational Awareness (SA) – an on-going process of perceiving what is going on around you, comprehending the meaning of what we are noticing, and projecting and predicting this comprehension forward in time – can often be challenging. Research has indicated that three-fourths of SA errors can be traced to something important happening in our environment, and we missed it (Jones & Endsley, 1996). In a high risk world like wildland fire, missing important cues or events can lead to catastrophic outcomes. The practice of mindfulness can help.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Day 3: Physical Capacity

Optimal Human Performance - Physical

Week of Remembrance June 30-July 6 

Physical capacity is a vital component of job performance in wildfire suppression activities. The physical work performed is classified by OSHA in the “extremely hard” and the loads carried in the “very heavy” categories. The duration and intensity level of these physical activities is highly variable in most cases and places both short-term and long-term demands on the individual Physical training programs should not just prepare individuals for wildfire suppression activities but also work to manage long-term health of the individual. The ability to handle the physical challenges associated with the occupation can be paramount for employees’ ability to accomplish production goals without undue fatigue and without becoming a hazard to themselves or to coworkers. 

Training Specificity: It’s easy to make someone tired…but are you really making them better for what they need? What are the important traits for wildland firefighter (strength, speed, endurance)? How do those interact? 
  • The key one for long endurance activities is the aerobic threshold. The activity level where our bodies go from primarily using oxygen (aerobic) to non-oxygen (anaerobic) energy pathways. This threshold can change with fitness level. 
Training for occupation must be multi-dimensional (based on the job task demands) 
  • A single exercise session should include the following phases: 
    • Warm-up (5-10 min; low to moderate) 
    • Stretching ( >10 min of stretching after cool-down) 
    • Conditioning or sports-related exercise (20-60 min) 
    • Cool-down (5-10 min; low to moderate) 
  • Our bodies have different thresholds for this work performed. Last year, physical training injuries were the 3rd highest group of total wildland fire injuries (2015 LLC Incident Review Summary). The biggest principle lacking from physical training programs typically is RECOVERY! 
    Wildland firefighter job tasks: hiking, carrying weight, digging, sawing, moving brush
Additional Resources: 

The topics for the NWCG “Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance” have been drawn from the Human Performance Optimization course taught as a part of the USFS Apprentice Academy in cooperation with the Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) and is rooted in the desire to prepare wildland fire personnel to optimally manage themselves and others at any given time. Review and resources have been contributed by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, NIFC External Affairs, the Wildland Fire annual refresher group, and the Wildland Fire Leadership Subcommittee.
6 Minutes for Safety logoWFSTAR logo
Firefit logoWildland Fire Lessons Learned Center logo

Friday, July 1, 2016

Day 2: Nutrition

Optimal human performance mountain with nutrition highlighted

Day 2: Nutrition 
Week of Remembrance June 30-July 6

Humans are unique in the ability to expend energy for many hours. 

Wildland Firefighters = 2800-6200 Calories per day