What Lessons Have We Really Learned About The June 30, 2013, Yarnell Hill Fire?
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Yesterday was the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Granite Mountain Hot Shot Learning and Tribute Center (GMHS LTC) in Prescott Gateway Mall in Prescott, Arizona. When I arrived today, I was pleased to see what volunteer curator for the center, Katie Cornelius and the play, THE FENCE director, Ered Matthews and so many others did so early on be shown public because it was viewed at St. Michaels privately then laid at the McCormick St. for many years.
Today, GMHS LTC Project Volunteer Dennis Bueschel was excellent explaining areas and I very much enjoyed his commentary throughout the day.
I will add more photos later and edit the page. I have to get to sleep. This is a temporary look at today and I will be away for my birthday the next few days so I will catch up when I am able.
Figure 1. This afternoon's June 30, 2018, video clip of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot (GMHS) remembrance ceremony on a stage at the intersection of Goodwin and Montezuma streets in downtown Prescott, AZ. They rang a memorial bell 19 times to honor each of the GMHS at 4:42 p.m., to coincide with the time of their deaths. You will only hear one bell chimes in the short video clip. My humble apologies for the grainy cell phone text copy because that was all I could do at the time; I will change it to a clearer original when on a desktop or PC. Source: Joy A. Collura
Figure 2. The following video clip below was blasting loudly from a saloon with a live band playing AC/DC "Back in Black" which was occurring on the same street on the same block at the same time as the GMHS memorial bell remembrance ceremony. It was also rodeo weekend in Prescott, so there was a lot of partying going on downtown. Apparently, the GMHS ceremonial group and the local saloon did not confer on the coordination and timing for this short, solemn ceremony.Or did they? I 'm not a WF, but I thought it was ironic that they were playing this song at the same time as the remembrance ceremony because from what many experienced WFs have posted over the years, the GMHS should have stayed back in the black rather than leave their Safety Zone. Source: Joy A. Collura
Figure 3. Video of June 30, 2013, fifth anniversary of GMHS memorial service. Source: Joy A. Collura, You Tube
Now it's time to consider the true lessons learned that we have garnered since June 30, 2013.
The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (WFLLC) refused to post on their website, one of former USFS Missoula Technology Development Center (MTDC )psychologist and human factors investigator, Dr. Ted Putnam's paper published in 2011 by the renowned International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF). The paper titled "Accidents, Accident Guides, Stories and the Truth" was from the Proceedings of 11th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit, April 4-8, 2011, Missoula, Montana, USA; Published by the International Association of Wildland Fire, Missoula, Montana, USA.
Dr. Putnam stated that he had submitted his paper to the WFLLC at least a dozen times without any kind of acknowledgement that they received it and no acknowledgement why they would not publish it. During the Spring of 2018, Fred Schoeffler also submitted Dr. Putnam's paper to the WFLLC three times without any acknowledgement that they received it and no acknowledgement why they would not publish it.
Dr. Putnam is the one who refused to sign the 1994 South Canyon Investigation Report because it was a coverup. His paper is well worth reading to discover the ongoing less than factual, less than truthful, less than forthright fatality fire investigations since the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire where thirteen WFs died.
His paper can be viewed at this link https://independent.academia.edu/DrTedPutnam
Here is the WFLLC Mission Statement: "Our mission is to promote learning in the wildland fire service by providing useful and relevant products and services that help to reveal the complexity and risk in the wildland fire environment."
Furthermore, the WFLLC contains an official USDA USFS WFLLC Disclaimer that states: “Information is Provided with the intent to share knowledge to improve safety, performance, efficiency and organizational learning throughout the entire wildland fire community. No warranty or guarantee is implied because much of the data provided is beyond the control of the center." In other words, this disclaimer basically allows the WFLLC to publish anything and everything that squares with their Mission Statement above.
The official USDA USFS WFLLC website further states:
“Growing to Better Serve This Country’s Wildland Firefighters
"The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) represents a core group of interagency staff members - representing decades of wildland fire experience - who are dedicated to promoting firefighter safety in all wildland fire management activities.
"Since its inception in 2002, the LLC has been growing to better serve this country’s wildland firefighters, helping promote a culture of safe and effective wildland firefighter work practices and improving wildland firefighters’ learning and training networks to further enhance their knowledge and skills. Besides making personal contacts at meetings, conferences, workshops, seminars, and wildfire academies throughout the United States, the LLC provides a popular website for wildland firefighters: ( http://www.wildfirelessons.net )
"This site introduces and links you to a wide array of wildland firefighter-based useful and relevant information. Another important facet on this home page is our “Connected Communities” function that we provide for your wildland fire-linked “communities” - please feel free to create one! - as well as incident management teams.”
There are numerous testimonials posted to their Community Rules & Etiquette and Privacy Guidelines, by all levels of wildland firefighters and supervisors speaking to what they believed is an honest, integrity driven process of accepting and posting relevant WFLLC materials pursuant to those very same Community Rules & Etiquette and Privacy Guidelines. If only they knew that they were getting much less than they thought. What lessons learned will they garner once they find out?
"Reply to Woodsman post on June 29, 2018 at 6:38 pm
" ... FWIW… here’s a little ‘insight’ into the actual ‘decision making’ process ( or lack thereof ) up at the infamous Lessons Learned Center. The following is a copy of an email that Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center ( WFLLC ) DIRECTOR Brit Rosso sent to one of his BOSSES at the National Park Service by the name of Christina ( Tina ) Boehle…
"Christina ( Tina ) Boehle National Park Service Acting Branch Chief, Communication and Education Division of Fire and Aviation 3833 South Development Ave. Boise, ID 83705 208.387.5875
"Rosso was giving ‘Tina’ a copy of a response email that he had just sent back to a lawyer who was researching ( among other things ) the Yarnell Hill Fire and had emailed Rosso and asked him TWO simple questions…
"1. Who decides what materials merit being posted for download on the wildfirelessons.net website?
"2. Do YOU ( Brit Rosso ) really work for the National Park Service?
"Brit Ross ‘replied’ to this lawyer and basically said that HE has the FINAL SAY about what gets ‘posted’ at the WFLLC… and he also said there are (quote) “no hard and fast rules for what warrants posting” ( endquote ).
He makes NO MENTION of the WFLLC’s actual MISSION STATEMENT.
He basically admits it all comes down to whether HE thinks anything is ‘relevant’ to the safety of wildland firefighters… or NOT.
He also verified that he DOES, in fact, ‘work’ for the National Park Service.
Here is Brit Rosso’s actual response email back to the lawyer…
—————————————————————————————————– "From: Rosso, Brit ( brit_rosso (at) nps.gov ) Date: Tue, Jul 1, 2014 at 3:36 PM Subject: Re: Two questions for Mr. Rosso ….
Sorry for the slow response.
It is a very busy time of year for us here at the LLC. So I will try to answer your two questions;
1 – my LLC team decides what materials merit posting to our web site. I have the final say as the Director, but we have no hard and fast “rules” for what warrants posting. The diversity of the products sent to us is just too complex to build hard and fast rules.
2 – I do work for the NPS, but the LLC works for the entire wildland fire community. We were born out of the loss of 14 firefighters on the 1994 South Canyon fire. We lost a total of 34 firefighters that tragic summer. By design we are the “ombudsman” or 3rd party voice for the wildland fire service.
I hope this helps you in your continued efforts. all the best.
Brit Rosso – Director Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center Work (520) 799-8760 Cell (559) 827-7607 www wildfirelessons.net"
"Brit Ross ( DIRECTOR of the WFLLC ) said… “By design we are the “ombudsman” or 3rd party voice for the wildland fire service.”
So back to our original question: "What Lessons Have We Really Learned About The June 30, 2013, Yarnell Hill Fire?"
We have learned that the SAIT-SAIR "... found no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol." (SAIT-SAIR page 4) In other words, the IMTs and the GMHS did everything right, yet 19 men died in one fell swoop.
That the SAIT ."... recommends that the State of Arizona request the NWCG and/or Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) to charter a team of interagency wildland fire and human factors experts to conduct further analysis of this event and the wildland fire communications environment." (SAIT-SAIR Recommendation 5. on page 44)
To date, as far as I am aware, no such "team of interagency wildland fire and human factors experts to conduct further analysis of this event" has ever been chartered to look into the human factors that contributed to the (in)actions of the IMTs and the deaths of the GMHS.
Instead the SAIT-SAIR posits: "Some Questions for Researchers in Human Factors, Organizations, Fire Behavior, etc." which leaves you - the WFs and Supervisors to come to your own conclusions regarding the human factors.
One of the latest accident investigation process is the "Coordinated Response Protocol and Learning Review" (I call it CRaP) for serious accidents link
You can also go to the Wildfire Today (WFT) article
Within the WFT article you will find this quote in the CRaP paper:
“Actions and decisions are consequences, not causes. The goal is to understand why actions or decisions made sense to those involved at the time. Conditions shape decisions and actions, revealing these conditions will aid the agency and agency personnel in understanding how to recognize, change and react to conditional pressures.”
ACTIONS AND DECISIONS ARE CONSEQUENCES, NOT CAUSES. Really? I thought that “actions” based on “decisions,” actually “caused” or resulted in consequences, whether good or bad.
Part of what this comes to is that if a decision is not caused, there is no standard explanation of it and if maybe there is no explanation of it – what other kind of explanation of events is there but a standard causal one?
The CRaP quote sounds a lot like the notion of DETERMINISM. Determinism is the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will.
It looks like the CRaP implies that individual human beings have NO FREE WILL and CANNOT BE HELD MORALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS. And here lies the rub. Where are the Lessons Learned if nobody is ever going to be found to have made any bad decisions that resulted in (OMG) mistakes (e.g. wildland fire burnovers and/or fatalities)?
Consider another version, called the "Learning Review." This is from the Saddleback Fire Learning Review, a hazard tree fatality..
“There were a variety of different factors and pressures influencing actions/decisions [Footnote] 9
During the Saddleback incident, which are likely present in many organizations, or work environments …”
“[Footnote] 9 There were occasions in the Review where the difference between actions and decisions could not be separated, thus the term action/decision was used, as it could have been either one, or a combination of both”
A quick review of the definitions of these two separate and distinct words reveals that Action is the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. And Decision is a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration or he action or process of deciding something or of resolving a question.
These and the YH Fire SAIT-SAIR conclusions are fairly clear examples of George Orwell's (1984) of Doublespeak, (i.e. love is hate, ignorance is strength") Worst of all this is Orwellian Doublethink, where one can grasp onto two opposing thoughts as being true at the same time.
So then, what lessons have we really learned about the June 30, 2013, Yarnell Hill Fire?
webmaster reviewed page last: 7-19-18 1:45pm