Friday, June 17, 2011

Becoming a Student of Fire- A Teacher

“If you choose to lead others you will leave a legacy. But that legacy will be determined by those that follow you. I suppose I would want my legacy to be that firefighters begin to realize the importance of being a student of fire and that I was able to help make that happen.” - Paul Gleason

Teaching is leading. This has become more apparent to me personally over the last few months as I continue to recognize the importance of good teachers, mentors, and a community that focuses on learning.

Most of us in the fire management world know about Paul Gleason, or at least are influenced by his teachings. He introduced LCES, developed the chainsaw training course, and was instrumental in the development of fire behavior and fire effects courses, to name just a few of his accomplishments. But it was his idea about becoming a student of fire that I feel was his most profound lesson.

Other than on a couple prescribed fire projects along the front range in Colorado when I was beginning my fire career I never worked directly for Gleason. Just having him involved with local fire trainings, having him teach and tell his stories, was a very powerful and enriching learning environment. I can remember how his stories would draw you in and allow you, as the student, to experience some of what he experienced. His wealth of experience added to his ability to tell stories and it became part of the student, instilling in them experiences and knowledge of his own life. That is what a good story teller and teacher does, they bring a story to life.

Gleason always encouraged fire fighters to become students of fire. When I first heard this, I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew I wanted to find out. This lesson about becoming a student of fire, for me, goes very deep. It is much more than just studying fire behavior or suppression tactics, or about historic fire events, or about accidents and fatality fires. For me is gets into the depth of what makes us human, it represents everything about learning, about leading, and about life. The lesson about being a student of fire to me means I am always learning, asking questions, striving to improve both in my profession and personal life. This part of Gleason’s legacy continues to grow within me on a daily basis and in a way Gleason lives on through others as they remember and emulate ideas or lessons they learned through his powerful stories.

With the fires going now in Arizona and the link to Gleason’s story to the historic Dude Fire, take some time to reflect what it means to be a student of fire. And more importantly, remember the lessons from one of the wildland fire communities greatest heros.

Some great links to honor his legacy:

LCES and Other Thoughts by Paul Gleason

Fire Management Today, Volume 63, No 3, Summer 2003, “Gleason Complex”, pg 85

Standing Accountable- Lessons Learned from Cerro Grande, presentation by Paul Gleason at S490 course.

1 comment:

pmcdonald said...

What a great post, Jeremy. Your thoughts and observations are spot on.