Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Building Resilience

(Photo credit: Ron Porter/Creative Commons)
Resilience isn’t something you have or not. It’s something that you build every day as you move through the storm. We are all born with muscles but none of us are born strong. We have to build strength by exercising those muscles, by feeding those muscles and by letting those muscles recover after the strain. This is how we build our resilience; so that when we are next tested, we will be strong enough to bend.

Ben Iverson is currently a Training Specialist for NWCG Training Development at NIFC. All expressions are those of the author.

Monday, August 21, 2017

IGNITE: Commitment Begins with Involvement

Involvement is the foundation for commitment. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 54  [Photo: BLM/Southern Nevada District Fire Program]
Involvement is the foundation for commitment. - Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 54
[Photo: BLM/Southern Nevada District Fire Program]

Thursday, August 17, 2017

IGNITE: Discover the leader within you.

Discover the leader within you.

Discover the leader within you.

[Photo: Kari Greer/USFS]

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Leading Authentically: How Do I Tell the Emperors?

By Alfred Walter Bayes, Dalziel Brothers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(Photo: By Alfred Walter Bayes, Dalziel Brothers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Timeless leadership is always about character, and it is always about authenticity. ~ Warren Bennis
I take pride in being a squeaky wheel, a BS caller, a canary in the coal mine. I’ll tackle the hard topics, often saying what many are thinking but don’t want to speak up about. I like that about myself, but not everyone likes that about me. As I have matured as a person and an employee, I’ve gotten better at being a bit gentler with it than I used to—at least when the situation warrants it. I’m still not great at sugar-coating things, and I feel that I shouldn’t have to when addressing my peers and my higher ups.

Monday, August 14, 2017

IGNITE: DUTY - RESPECT - INTEGRITY

DUTY RESPECT INTEGRITY

DUTY
RESPECT
INTEGRITY

[Photo: Dan Ng/NPS]

Friday, August 11, 2017

LIVE!


The hardest assignments begin with the simplest act. Adding the black band to my badge somehow makes it more real. It signifies the need, the calling to bring another fallen firefighter home for the last time. I think about July 23, 2009, often. Tom Marovich died on July 21st, but I met his parents on July 23. That day is etched in my brain. If you’ve met a mother or a father or a sister or brother, you know what I mean. That day in 2009 nearly broke me. In the years since, I've been on a quest to be strong enough to bend when faced with the stormto become more resilient.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

IGNITE: Planting the Seeds of Knowledge

If we do not plant knowledge when young, it will give us no shade when we are old.  - Attributed to Lord Chesterton  [Photo: Kyle Miller/Wyoming IHC, Strawberry Hill fire]
If we do not plant knowledge when young, it will give us no shade when we are old. - Attributed to Lord Chesterton
[Photo: Kyle Miller/Wyoming IHC, Strawberry Hill fire]

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Extreme Ownership: Get After it!

Leif Babin, George Risko, Carlos Climent, and Jocko Willink
(Leif Babin, George Risko, Carlos Climent, and Jocko Willink; photo credit: George Risko)
What is Extreme Ownership? Well, first, it’s a philosophy of leadership. It is also a book, the full title of which is Extreme Ownership: How Navy SEALs Lead and Win, written by a couple of former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Jocko and Leif decided to share what they’ve learned about leadership, teamwork and relationships with the world. I am of the opinion that the principles in the book also qualify it as a lifestyle—and certainly, for me, a life changer.

Monday, August 7, 2017

IGNITE: You Have a Duty to Influence Decisions

Everyone has the right and the duty to influence decision making and to understand the results. – Max De Pree
[Photo: Kari Greer/USFS, Rough fire, 2015]

Thursday, August 3, 2017

IGNITE: Kindness and Truth

Kindness doesn’t mean we avoid having difficult conversations with people. Kindness doesn’t mean we refuse to address poor performance. Kindness demands that we tell the truth. ~ Perry Noble  [Photo credit: Rob Marcroft, Martin Canyon fire (2017)]
Kindness doesn’t mean we avoid having difficult conversations with people. Kindness doesn’t mean we refuse to address poor performance. Kindness demands that we tell the truth. ~ Perry Noble

[Photo credit: Rob Marcroft, Martin Canyon fire (2017)]

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Not Me! Ida Know! Nobody!

(Photo credit: The Family Circus by Bil and Jeff Keane)

Growing up I looked forward to reading "The Family Circus" comic strip in the Sunday newspaper (to be honest, the comics were about all I read). I don't know about you, but it seems like the artist had a lot of insight into my family. The "Not Me," "Ida Know," and "Nobody" gremlins ran rampant throughout our house. Some 40 years (or more) later, I ponder the strip's relevance as I write this blog on accountability and responsibility in the wildland fire service. WHO is ultimately responsible for decisions and actions? How far up the chain does responsibility go? Let's "unpack" a few things before we answer the question--if we can.

Monday, July 31, 2017

IGNITE: Common Purpose

No matter the challenges at hand, fire leaders work together to find common ground and act in the best interests of those responding to the incident, the public, and our natural resources. – Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 16

[Photo credit: Rob Marcroft, Martin Canyon fire (2017)]

Thursday, July 27, 2017

IGNITE: Make a Difference

One person can make a difference and everyone should try. - John F. Kennedy  [Photo credit: Oregon Department of Forestry]
One person can make a difference and everyone should try. - John F. Kennedy
[Photo credit: Oregon Department of Forestry]

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"If You Don't, Who Will?"

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. - Joel A. Barker
“Everyone can exercise leadership by being an individual contributor at any level of an organization. What does that mean? Ultimately it comes down to looking for opportunities to make the world a better place. That sounds grand, but when people apply that idea to their work situations, it means having a vision of how your unit, or you as an individual, can be more effective and creative, go beyond day-to-day requirements, and energize others around that vision.” ~ Helen Handfield-Jones

Monday, July 24, 2017

IGNITE: True Power is Mastering Self

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. - Lao Tzu  [Photo credit: Redding Hotshot Crew, Soberanes Fire (2016)]
Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. - Lao Tzu

[Photo credit: Redding Hotshot Crew, Soberanes Fire (2016)]

Thursday, July 20, 2017

IGNITE: Leadership is Action

Leadership is not defined by your title--it's defined by your actions. - Disney Institute  [Photo credit: NPS]
Leadership is not defined by your title--it's defined by your actions. - Disney Institute

[Photo credit: NPS]

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Friend or Foe?

Friend or Foe game show logo
(Photo credit: Game Show Network)
Some of you may recall a game show called "Friend or Foe." Contestants partnered up to amass a "trust fund" and either split the fund or take all the money for themselves.

Monday, July 17, 2017

IGNITE: Earn Your Leadership

Earn your leadership every day. - Michael Jordan  [Photo credit: Dennis Lee/Klamath-Lake District/ODF]
Earn your leadership every day. - Michael Jordan

[Photo credit: Dennis Lee/Klamath-Lake District/ODF]

Thursday, July 13, 2017

IGNITE: Image versus Integrity

Image is what people think we are. Integrity is what we really are. - John C. Maxwell (Hotshot buggies next to old cabin)
Image is what people think we are. Integrity is what we really are. - John C. Maxwell
[Photo credit: Wyoming IHC/Kyle Miller]

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Fine Art of Leadership

Bottles of paint and paint brushes in a box covered with paint
(Photo credit: Photodisc/ThinkStock)
Quite a few of my friends have been attending canvas painting parties. At these parties, guests are invited to bring in their own food and beverage while the host provides the painting supplies and skill (if you need it) to create a take-home masterpiece. I found the concept to hold many lessons on leadership.

Monday, July 10, 2017

IGNITE: Leaders are Learners

Everyone wins when a leader gets better. - Bill Hybels  (Horses in a field with wildfire in the background)
Everyone wins when a leader gets better. - Bill Hybels

[Photo credit: Melissa Neill]

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Legacy of Leaders: Beyond South Canyon and Yarnell

Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance banner

A LEGACY OF LEADERS: 
SOUTH CANYON AND YARNELL

by Rowdy Muir

The 20th anniversary of South Canyon has caused me to reflect on the events that occurred on the mountain of Storm King and how they relate to Yarnell Hill. How did our wildland fire community get through those tough times 20 years ago; how will we get beyond Yarnell?

I remember South Canyon as though it was yesterday. Our team was assigned to the Corral Fire on the Payette National Forest when the South Canyon Investigation report came out. Our Incident Commander, Roy Johnson, was assigned to the South Canyon investigation team. Speculations and rumors of what really happened were in every conversation. Just like it has been with Yarnell Hill. 

The news was hard to stomach. How would I move past the tragedy?  It was only July 6 and there was plenty of fire season left. Just a few bad decisions or mistakes and it could happen to me. I needed to find a way to stay on top of my game.

I was a young 4th year Division Supervisor on a National Type I Incident Management Team. I tried to never show my fear. I’m sure many hotshot superintendents thought I was a young punk kid. For the most part they were correct; still, they somehow let me think I was in charge.

I moved beyond what happened at South Canyon by watching and following those who had many years of experience leading people. I would like to say thanks to those who have mentored many of us through some difficult times through the years. I mention these names because they’re the ones I spent many years either sleeping or working in the dirt with.

Greg Overacker (Stanislaus) had 18 years of experience as a hotshot superintendent prior to South Canyon and went on to be superintendent for 10 more years. Greg then retired and went to work for Cal-Fire. When I became a Type I Incident Commander, Greg continued to call me “Chief.” Mark Linane (Los Padres) had 20 years of experience as a hotshot superintendent prior to South Canyon and went on to be superintendent for 6 more years. I always admired Mark and the crew for their hard work ethic. Jay Bertek (El Cariso) had 7 years as the superintendent prior to South Canyon and 19 years after. Jay impressed me by becoming a lead instructor for L-380. I can add Fred Schoeffler (Payson) who was a superintendent 13 years prior to South Canyon and went 13 more years; Fred was also closely connected with the Dude Fire. That’s roughly 105 years of experience with just those four.  

The legacy of names that lead us through the trying times includes Richard Aguilar (Wolf Creek) 20 years as a superintendent; Steve Karkanen (Lolo) 20 years; Ron Regan (Del Rosa) 19 years; Robert “Horseshoe Bob” Bennett (Horseshoe Meadows) 18 years; Craig Workman (Black Mountain) 17 years who I could rarely catch up to on the line; Dave Conklin (Bear Divide) 17 years; Scott Bushman (Logan) 16 years-who smoked like a chimney, but would hike you to death; Rusty Witmer (Hobart/Tahoe), Luther Clements (Warm Springs), and Paul Musser (Flagstaff)—each with 15 years.

The list goes on: Mike Beckett (Eldorado) with 14 years; Jim Cook (Arrowhead) 13 years; Mark Rogers (Wyoming)—who I spent many days with in 1988 during the Yellowstone Fires; Larry Edwards (Helena), Bob Wright (Sacramento), Britt Rosso (Arrowhead) and Bob Lamay (Smokey Bear) all had 12 years as superintendents.

There’s J.P. Mattingly (Alpine), Dan Kleinman (Fulton) (Dan is still working on a NIMO Team), Kurt LaRue (Diamond Mountain)—who taught me that some things are better left alone, John Thomas (Texas Canyon), Harvey Carr (Flathead), Paul Linse (Flathead)-who went on to an Area Command team) and Tony Sciacca (Prescott) all had 10 years as superintendents. Stan Stewart (Los Padres) had 9 years as a superintendent.

As I look at the names of these leaders who were Hotshot Superintendents before, during and beyond South Canyon, I realize I’ve been influenced by some of the greatest leaders within the wildland fire community--29 Leaders with over 400 years of experience.

So the question remains. ”How do we get beyond Yarnell Hill”? My answer would be to watch and follow those who take it upon themselves to lead us as did those 20 years ago. Leaders like:
Ron Bollier (Fulton) 17 years; Lyle St. Goddard (Chief Mountain) 16 years (Lyle was a Squad Boss on the crew during South Canyon); Rick “Cowboy” Cowell (Tahoe) 16 years (recently retired); Dewey Rebbe (Gila)—who never knew when or where I might show up on the fire line and swore there was only two Negrito shirts left and I wasn’t getting one—Rich Dolphin (Smokey Bear) who spent several years as the National IHC Chair, and Lamar Liddell (Jackson) all with 15 years.  Steve Sevelson (Plumas) 14 years, Johnny Clem (Klamath), who now chairs the National IHC committee, Randy Anderson (Snake River), Mike Alarid (Bear Divide), and Diego Mendiola (Zig Zag) all with 13 years. John Armstrong (Texas Canyon) 12 years, Matt Hoggard (Black Mountain), Bill Kuche (Flagstaff), Frank “Pancho” Auza (Black Mesa), Bart Yeager (Vale)—who helped me with writing the “Dutch Creek Protocols”—and Brian Cardoza (Idaho City) all have or will soon have 10 years.

Seventeen more leaders with over 249 years of experience who remember South Canyon and were mentored by those mentioned above.

All these leaders (and there are more, outside the hotshot community as well) have shouldered the challenges and moved us forward. I’m truly grateful and humbled to have had the chance to work with these individuals. I owe a great deal to them for how they impacted my career, and for how they have contributed to the legacy of leadership that will get us from South Canyon to Yarnell and beyond.



Rowdy Muir
(Rowdy Muir, Fire and Aviation Safety Team during the Beaver Creek fire near Sun Valley, Idaho, 2013. Photo credit: Bureau of Indian Affairs)

Thank you to Rowdy Muir, U.S. Forest Service Flaming Gorge District Ranger, for sharing this information with us.

This blog first ran on July 1, 2014, during the first Week of Remembrance.

IGNITE: Build the Team

Build the team.– Conduct frequent debriefings with the team to identify lessons learned. – Recognize accomplishments and reward them appropriately. – Apply disciplinary measures equally. – Leading in the Wildland Fire Service (Tallac IHC members looking across ridge at a wildfire)

RESPECT
Build the team.– Conduct frequent debriefings with the team to identify lessons learned.
– Recognize accomplishments and reward them appropriately.
– Apply disciplinary measures equally.
– Leading in the Wildland Fire Service

[Photo: Tallac Hotshots]

WEEK OF REMEMBRANCE - Day 7: Leadership and South Canyon

Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance banner
Today is dedicated to the 14 firefighters that lost their lives on Storm King Mountain in Colorado 23 years ago today.

South Canyon fatalities

On July 6, 1994, 14 wildland firefighters lost the lives on the South Canyon fire near Glenwood Springs, CO. The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program was created as an interagency effort following this tragic event. Since 2002, the program has helped develop today’s fire leaders as well as casting eyes forward to the needs of future fire leaders. The program honors those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by promoting a safe fire suppression culture led by good leaders.


(Photo credit: Paul Hohn)
(Photo credit: Paul Hohn)
Background
Leadership, or problems associated with its practice on the fireline, has been cited frequently as a factor contributing to wildland fire accidents in accident investigation reports and management reviews for many years. The importance of leadership on fires has been echoed time and again. In the Final Report of the Interagency Management Review Team on the South Canyon Fire, published June 26, 1995, the statement is made that "attitudes and leadership are universal factors that influence safe fire suppression." A few years later, the "Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study, Phase III" (Tri-Data report) was published. It contained numerous goals and implementation strategies related to leadership and leadership training.
  • Goal 69: "Provide supervisors with training in leadership and supervisory skills." 
  • Goal 74: "Prepare leaders for decision-making under stress." 

2017 Wildland Fire National Leadership Campaign: Leading Authentically

2017 Wildland Fire National Leadership Campaign – Leading Authentically
Task: This is an opportunity for personnel at the local level—whether collectively or through self-development—to focus and create leadership development activities relating to the national campaign theme. Some guiding questions to think about when creating leadership development activities for your unit, crew, forest, etc. are:
  • What does leading authentically mean?
  • Why is leading authentically important?
  • What are some ways to develop quality authentic leadership in the self and others?
Purpose:
  • To promote leadership development across the wildland fire community disciplines.
  • To provide an opportunity and resources that can be used for leadership development at the local unit level.
  • To collect innovative leadership development efforts and share those efforts across the community.
End State: A culture that creates and shares innovative leadership development efforts in order to maintain superior leadership in the fire community.

Additional Resources

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WEEK OF REMEMBRANCE - Day 6: Getting Real About What's Normal

2017 Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance banner
If you have crew leaders at a staging area, how many different opinions do you have? When was the last time you had zero communication problems? These are some of the friction points often cited as “contributing factors” after unintended outcomes. Are these rare occurrences or normal work conditions?
How often do you face the following tensions?

  • Difference of opinion.
  • Communication struggles.
  • Surprising fire behavior.
  • Decisions under stress.
Discuss the following questions:

  • How likely is it that these tensions are present on your next fire?
  • How much control do you have over these conditions?
  • If nothing bad happens, are these conditions still “contributing factors”?
  • How can you practice and improve on dealing with these conditions?
Want context from a real-life event? Watch and discuss Episode 5 of the Nuttall Fire Story video series.


Thanks to the Wildland LLC for this great resource.

Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center logo - 3 large concentric stars surrounded by 14 blue stars

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

WEEK OF REMEMBRANCE - Day 5: Getting Real About Escape Routes



2017 Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance banner


We always have pre-planned escape routes—right? Sometimes they become “absent, inadequate, or compromised.” That is called “an entrapment.” Here’s the definition from the NWCG glossary:

Entrapment
A situation where personnel are unexpectedly caught in a fire behavior-related, life-threatening position where planned escape routes or safety zones are absent, inadequate, or compromised. An entrapment may or may not include deployment of a fire shelter for its intended purpose. These situations may or may not result in injury. They include "near misses."
So what if you are burning and your plan is to “bring the black with you”…
  • But a surprise downhill crown run puts fire below you.
Your planned escape route was back up the line to the top…
  • But some unexpected folks show up who are not capable of the fast hike out. 
Now the plan is to bring everyone to the helispot—the best available refuge area…
  • But the group hiking to the helispot are cut off by fire…
Now the group turns around and heads back up the line toward the top…
  • On the way up, a crewmember becomes unconscious.

Each of those changes in the plan can be viewed as a “Red X” on 

red x over the words "The Plan"

Just in relation to Escape Routes – Discuss This Question:

How many Red Xs can your plan tolerate?

Want context from a real-life event? Watch and discuss Episode 4 of the Nuttall Fire Story video series.

Thanks to the Wildland LLC for this great resource.

Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center logo - 3 large concentric stars surrounded by 14 blue stars

Monday, July 3, 2017

IGNITE: Freedom

May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right. – Peter Marshall  [Photo: Baker River IHC]

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY 

May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right. – Peter Marshall
[Photo: Baker River IHC]

WEEK OF REMEMBRANCE - Day 4: Getting Real About Complexity



2017 Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance banner
Sometimes our plans don’t work out. We know this, that is why we have contingency plans—but how many contingency plans should you have? How do you prepare for the complexity we face?

What if you were dealing with…

Surprising fire behavior, differing opinions, first plan doesn't work, note everyone is aware of who is on the line, medical emergency, layout not known to all

Discuss the following questions:

How will you prepare for each instance?


How will you prepare for all of them happening at the same time?

Want context from a real-life event? Watch and discuss Episode 3 of the Nuttall Fire Story video series.


Thanks to the Wildland LLC for this great resource.

Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center logo - 3 large concentric stars surrounded by 14 blue stars

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Week of Remembrance - Day 3: Getting Real About Expected Fire Behavior

2017 Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance banner

Fire Order #3

Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire.

  • Has a fire ever done something you didn’t expect it to do? It happens often.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Week of Remembrance - Day 2: Engage or Not Engage?


2017 Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance banner

We all lead on the fireline, whether we are conscious of it or not. Decisions are rarely made in a vacuum. We all contribute to how decisions get made. One of the most important decisions made regarding wildland fire is whether or not we “engage.” How is this decision really made?
Look at pages 1 and 2 in the IRPG—they are intended to aid us with this crucial decision.

Engage or not engage

Friday, June 30, 2017

WEEK OF REMEMBRANCE - Day One

Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance header
“One of the few acts of free will that tragedy leaves within our control, is the chance to grow. Our brothers have given us such a precious and hard-won opportunity to learn new knowledge and apply lessons.” - “Honor the Fallen” Member
June 30 through July 6 has been designated the NWCG “Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance.” This week serves as an annual opportunity to renew our commitment to the safety of wildland firefighters as we remember those who have fallen in the line of duty. Over many decades, lessons learned from accidents and fatalities that have occurred on wildland fires have led to significant improvements in firefighter education, training, operational practices, and risk management processes. Unfortunately, wildland firefighting remains inherently hazardous, and we continue to experience accidents and fatalities. This “Week of Remembrance” is an opportunity to collectively remember our fallen firefighters as we continue our ongoing effort to enhance the safety of all wildland firefighters.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

IGNITE: Loving What You Do

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. – Rumi  [Photo: Tatanka IHC] Wildland firefighter surrounded by fire at night.

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. – Rumi

[Photo: Tatanka IHC]

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Turning Concepts into "Ways of Being"

(Photo credit: Pixabay.com)
The leadership concepts we share when working to develop our professional/career skills and abilities might best be conveyed in the lessons we learn in our lives more broadly. Consider turning our concepts into “ways of being.” Internalize them; make them personal and meaningful and connecting them in ways that resonate and manifest in the how, not what, we think about stuff.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

IGNITE: Take Care of Your People

Always take care of the people who are trying to make you look good (make it as easy as possible for them to do so). – Unknown
Always take care of the people who are trying to make you look good (make it as easy as possible for them to do so). – Unknown
[Photo: Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Mile Marker 14 Fire (2016)]

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Leadership is Action - "You Can't Force Leadership"


Bumble bee in flowering tree
It is of this writer’s belief that one can’t force leadership. We can just plant the seed. Your flower will blossom when it is ready. Flowers bloom all the time.

Monday, June 19, 2017

ALERT: Increase in Heat-Related Illnesses in Wildland Firefighting



NMAC Correspondence 2017-12
June 19, 2017

To: Geographic Area Coordination Group Chairs
From: National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group
Subject: Wildland Firefighter Heat Related Injury Prevention, Awareness, and Rhabdomyolysis

The wildland firefighter community has experienced an alarming increase in heat related and other physiological injuries in the last few days. Heat related injuries and Rhabdomyolysis are not the same, but can occur at the same time. Extreme weather conditions are predicted to continue across western states for the next week. The National Weather Service is issuing Heat Warnings for the SWCC, GBCC, RMCC, OSCC, and ONCC (http://www.weather.gov/).

IGNITE: What is courage?

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen - W. Churchill (Wildland firefighters sitting and talking while a crew is hiking in the background)

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen - W. Churchill
[Photo credit: Kari Greer/USFS]