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Staff Ride PART ONE - Do The Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Rides by Arizona State Forestry provide that sp

Staff Ride PART ONE - Do The Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Rides by Arizona State Forestry provide that specific perspective of strategy, technology, and leadership? After reviewing the 52-page Facilitator Guide - did you even take that route that day?


2018-12-08 | Arizona Desert Walker Joy A. Collura and contributing other(s)



Views expressed to "the public at largeand "of public concern"


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Consider now the first 26 of the 52 pages of the undated / unedited / unredacted / 52-page "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride from the AZ State Forestry




Figure 1. Page One of 52 (Title Page) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Prepare yourself to: create a memorable learning experience; discover and reveal operational decision-making trends to reinforce the wildland fire service positive and reduce the negative outcomes; broaden your expectations and possibilities for making positive changes; recognize the inevitable WUI-driven-chaos and how to deal with it; to help heal communities affected by loss.



Figure 2. Page Two of 52 (Goals - Stand descriptions / themes) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


Figure 3. Page Three of 52 (Introduction - Stand timeframes - themes) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 4. Page Four of 52 (Notes page) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


Figure 5. Page Five of 52 (travel map to Stand One) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 6. Page Six of 52 (Travel maps for Stands Two to Five) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

In Figure 6, this may be the "official" map for YH Fire Staff Rides and Site Visits, however, there have been Wildland Firefighters / Firefighters / Hybrids who have shared their experiences, and they were brought out there on different guided terrain paths. And some have come on to this 160 acres Sesame to Shrine Corridor, or come in from Peeples Valley areas by vehicles.

I would ask them "are you sure it was a Staff Ride or was it a Site Visit?"

They said yes - but to which one? They went through the Sesame to Shrine areas. We began the purchase based on those firefighters' accounts.

Now see the official map shows it only on the Arizona State Land Memorial Park Trail. This area is rich in Native American history (archaeological artifacts). Just ask John MacLean. It also traverses the Maughan's private and Arizona State Land. So then, these were actually "off the record" experiences these firefighters had labelled "Staff Rides."



Figure 7. Page Seven of 52 (GMHS background information) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


Consider now the YH Fire Staff Ride above "Background Information - Recent history leading up to the Yarnell Hill Fire: Blue "Call Out Boxes" enclosed "Questions for Students of Fire: GMHS were students of fire on this one."


Yes indeed, the "GMHS were students of fire on this one," like all other WFs on whatever wildfires they engage in. However aberrantly it was, the GMHS on the YH Fire, seemed to be very poor students of fire, with no sense of recollection, or remembering, or even the basic application of what was important in the areas discussing Risk Management. Moreover, certain basic wildland firefighting would also be implicated based how they were acting and making poor decisions.


"Sizing up our opponents to determine victory, assessing dangers and distances is the proper course of action for military leaders." Sun Tzu, The art of War, "Terrain"


"First recon, then risk" Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke


Risk Management - April 1998 - FM 100-14 - US Army


1) Did they proceed as students of fire given this killer fuel-type and well established SOPs? First off, this was "their turf." They had fought fire in this "killer fuel-type" for years, and had fought the Doce Fire, also in this killer fuel-type, a week or so before. Inexplicably, it appears that they proceeded as inexperienced, novice students of fire - or more accurately, arrogant, this-is-how-we've-always-done-it and nobody-is-going-to-tell-us-what-to-do students of fire instead of as a qualified, certified, experienced Type I Hot Shot Crew, given this killer fuel-type.


Secondly, as far as the "Did they proceed as students of fire given well established SOPs" thing goes; the GMHS seemed to have totally ignored, discounted, or disregarded (or all three) the key points of their SOP, especially those regarding the Basics, (e.g. the Ten Standard Fire Orders and the Eighteen Watch Out Situations, LCES, as well as the Downhill Line Construction Checklist). From what I am told, all of these and more are generally included in every Hot Shot Crew's "well established SOP," and so it's fair to infer that the GMHS had these as well. So then, given that - what the f**k were they thinking? Read former AZ AUSA Mike John's research paper on that subject, and a bunch more, minus the "F-bomb, of course.

( https://gacc.nifc.gov/swcc/dispatch_logistics/overhead/imt/documents/what_was_he_thinking.pdf )


And yet, over the years, the GMHS had previously done repeated unsafe actions - and gotten away with them again and again and again - on numerous occasions, (e.g The Rule of 99, Bad Decisions With Good Outcomes, etc.) . The most recent ones of significance were on the 2012 Holloway Fire (NV / OR) and the 2013 Doce Fire (AZ) a week before the YH Fire. All these are documented and discussed on this website and elsewhere. See in detail "Human Factors Influenced the 30 June 2013, Yarnell Hill Fire Fatalities" presented at the Central AZ Wildfire Response Team (CAWRT) RT-130 Refresher Training at the Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center from March 23-24, 2016 (Academia.edu).


2) GMHS did have good experience and knowledge, but was their experience only sufficient enough, to give them the self-confidence to take on greater, possibly unjustified risks? First off, I need to address the "possibly unjustified risks" comment. There is no possible ("possibly") about it because it was a causal factor ! I am told that it might be more accurately attributed to GMHS Supt. / DIVS A Marsh's arrogance. These were most definitely unjustified risks, patently based on the known volatile fuels, witnessed deteriorating weather; steep, dissected topography, definitely unimagined exponential fire growth, and recurring explosive fire behavior. ( https://www.khanacademy.org/math/algebra/x2f8bb11595b61c86:exponential-growth-decay/x2f8bb11595b61c86:exponential-vs-linear-growth/v/exponential-vs-linear-growth ) See also the excellent Werth et al Synthesis of Knowledge of Extreme Fire Behavior: Volume 1 (2011) for Fire Managers and Volume 2 (2016) for Fire Behavior Specialists, Researchers, and Meteorologists.


Yes indeed, GMHS did have good experience and knowledge. They also had several Rookies, with little to no experience other than following orders and whatever they were learning that year. This included the alleged "lookout" McDonough and his Fire Order No. 10 being "Hillbilly." This was based on his comments in one of his ADOSH interviews: "It's Hillbilly, it's what it is. It's old ... no offense to whoever came up with that ... um, I mean no disrespect to anybody, but I mean it is the way they fight wildland fires today. I mean ... Oh it's ... We're smart. We're a lot smarter."


Yeah right, so smart that 19 men died in one fell swoop. It is safe to say that third year Crewmembers are likely coached on something like that or have heard that before to come up with haughty comments like that. And he and the other GMHS never read this guy's book or anything else about valuable about old wildland fire safety stuff that works dealing with many of the elements that WFs and FFs deal with on most wildfires.


Writer and "builder of things" Buster Benson provides one of many core principles taken from Antifragile: "Respect the old  - look for habits and rules that have been around for a long time." Basically, these things benefit from disorder, obstacles, unexpected events, change, etc. and then go a step further and describes things that not only bounce back quickly, but come back stronger when they meet adversity. It's all about finding a way to gain from the inevitable disorder of life, to bounce back when things don’t go as planned, and as a result, to get stronger, smarter, and better at continuing running into this disorder. (Farnam Street)


BRENDAN MCDONOUGH ADOSH interview comments posted on InvestigativeMEDIA - WTKTT) ( https://www.investigativemedia.com/forest-service-ignored-information-from-hotshot-leaders-about-granite-mountains-history-of-bad-decisions/#comment-336047 )



A short digression is in order here to address his sometimes delusional and sometimes contradictory wanting to "protect my Brothers," ducking out of several Deposition subpoenas; refusing to share the truth with GMHS family, friends, and loved ones; lawyering up, writing a book, calling for much further investigation, and [fiction and lies] speaking tours for profit, which contradict previous talks and are lately skewed to follow certain scenes in the 'Only the Brave' movie.



The following is taken from an IM (WTKTT) post from the link above and in a May 2, 2016, Phoenix, AZ radio special. This was hosted by Mac and Gaydos of KTAR Radio talk with "Brendan McDonough, the sole survivor of the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 of his firefighting brothers. Brandon wrote the book 'My Lost Brothers” in 2017.


His book has this disturbing and Orwellian subtitle: "[T]he Firefighters Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice." Almost all of those men's lives were taken from them. One supervisor likely sacrificed himself. once he realized his bad decisions would kill his men and he'd have to live with the guilt. It is the view of many researchers, experienced WFs, and FFs that the GMHS supervisors' actions and inactions fall somewhere between misfeasance and malfeasance. Yet, the SAIT-SAIR conclusion? Mysteriously and yet intentionally, the SAIT found "... no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol." (emphasis added)


Continuing on with the KTAR talk: "A little over a week ago [April 2016], during his ‘publicity tour’ to promote his new book … Brendan McDonough called publicly for a ‘reopening’ of the investigation so that ALL firefighters in the future can know what really happened … and learn the proper lessons.


"Here is an excerpt from one of Brendan McDonough’s PUBLIC interviews that he had been giving all week long ( the first week of May ) in association with the release of his new book. KTAR News ( Radio ) May 2, 2016 – Hour: 3 ( http://ktar.com/player/?a=321314 )


"Content description - Mac and Gaydos of KTAR Radio talk with Brendan McDonough, the sole survivor of the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 of his firefighting brothers. Brandon wrote the book “My Lost Brothers.”


"From this radio interview with Brendan McDonough … ————————————————————————————— +16:23 Interviewer: With the investigation … did you … did you read over the investigation? Do you kind of agree with what the investigation found? What were your thoughts on how it all kinda sort of ended and wrapped up with the government investigating everything?


+16:34 Brendan McDonough: I think with the investigation there’s some things that… there’s definitely some things that have been found since then. Since the investigation, I believe it needs to be opened up again and some… certain things need to be added to it because… any decision that was made that day led to their deaths … and we need to learn from that… and the wildfire community needs to have those answers and those lessons so that we can prevent this again. So I believe there’s a LOT of information that has been found and… will probably CONTINUE to be found for quite some time that needs to be put… put in there… so when someone looks it up that they can… they can SEE it… they can LEARN from it. Ya know… 20 years from down from the road (sic) these young fireman can… can SEE these lessons learned… and PREVENT it. —————————————————————————————–

So Brendan is specifically calling for the ‘re-opening’ of the Yarnell Hill Fire investigation and he says (quote) “certain things need to be added to it” because (quote) “any decision that was made that day led to their deaths”.


"There’s no other way to read that other than to now assume Brendan is SURE there is 'more to learn' about why the GM Hotshots ended up where they were … and that these ‘other things’ that he is sure have YET to be revealed represent important 'lessons to learn' for future Wildland Firefighters." ( all emphasis added)


3) Had they adequately judged the potential fire behavior situation as students of fire? You're kidding, right? Obviously NOT! Based on the fact that GMHS hiked downhill in chimneys and chutes in dense, decadent unburned chaparral with fire below during very obvious and very tangible deteriorating weather, and associated increased aggressive fire behavior. This is quite obvious as seen in the June 30, 1529 (4:29 PM) Brian Lauber photo(s) and Google Earth overlay (WTKTT) displayed elsewhere in several posts on this website and within several "June 30, 2013" research papers in Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE) conferences and on Academia.edu.


4) Did the hometown Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) threat further blind their fire-behavior situational awareness and risk assessment process? I believe it's safe to say that it's very likely the case based on just a few of the several comments (below) made by the PFD Wildland Fire BC Darrel Willis, during the July 2013, YH Fire / GMHS Deployment / Fatality Site News Conference. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1lBgicPq5A ) (Part 1) and ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDQRLXZV1Ro ) (Part 2)


PFD Wildland Fire BC Darrel Willis: ”… I would have followed them blindfolded … “ and “ … no [WFF] is satisfied sitting there [in a Safety Zone] and watching the fire progress without taking some action …” and another gem here stating that they protected themselves as a last resort … picked the best location in this bowl … “ and this logical fallacy “ …**why do [FF] run into burning buildings** … it’s ingrained in them not going to sit up there whenpotential for people to be at risk somewhere.

( This is the **Fallacy of False Equivalence or False Analogy** where he takes an enormous ‘leap’ from structure fire to wildland fire ).


These are clearly indications of PFD "Hybrid" Municipal Firefighting attitudes and generally toxic, causal human factors, hazardous attitudes, and leadership qualities that very well may have adversely influenced the GMHS that day; clearly causal factors in the fatalities that were discounted and ignored in the SAIT-SAIR.


Corroborating the causal influences above, one of many YH Fire SMEs - an experienced long-time career USFS WF supervisor and later, Staff - stated in July / August 2013: "We have so much evidence and information about what happened on the YH Fire that we cannot and will not ever release to the public."


In other words, they know so much more, countering the SAIT-SAIR half-dozen "we will never know" prevarications.

Figure 8. Page Eight of 52 (Stand One - Yarnell Fire Station - Defining Success) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 9. Page Nine of 52 (Stand One - Yarnell Fire Station - Defining Success - Framing the Window) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 10. Page Ten of 52 (Stand One - Yarnell Fire Station - Defining Success - Framing the Window - Margins) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 11. Page Eleven of 52 (Stand One - Yarnell Fire Station - Defining Success - Framing the Window) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 12a. Page Twelve of 52 (Stand Two - Movement to Ridgetop - "Toggle On") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 12b. Page Twelve of 52 (Stand Two - Movement to Ridgetop - "Toggle On") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride with names I have come to know Source: Arizona State Forestry

Left to Right as I see it are the ones in this photograph: Yarnell Fire Dept. Chief Ben Palm, Thom Taylor, Brit Rosso (pointing), Fritz Mueller. Back: Jim Cook, Paul Musser, Todd Abel. And the one in the background in "the cross hairs" with hands in his pockets is AZ State Forestry John Truett.


Please "pay close attention" to one of the finest firefighters out there; Thom Taylor and his somber, contemplative facial expressions while others smile. This man best represents my facial expressions / body language when I am out there. He understands the culture and politics, fire safety, and I would follow this man if I was to work for him. My facial expression in the fatality area matches Thom Taylor in the Figure 12c.


Figure 12c. Joy A. Collura above the YH Fire GMHS Fatality Site. Source: Joy A. Collura

Figure 13. Page Thirteen of 52 (Stand Two - Movement to Ridgetop - "Toggle On" - Opening the Window) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 14. Page Fourteen of 52 Stand Two - Movement to Ridgetop - "Toggle On" - Opening the Window) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Hopefully, you noted the blue "Students of Fire" block above giving what sure looks like "official" credence to author Kyle Dickman's Burning Edge book regarding leadership styles and stereotypes exhibited by the leadership involved in this incident. Dickman is the author that did a less than satisfactory job fact checking details and gave his opinions instead on what likely occurred or what they were likely thinking at the time or should have been doing, Why neglect interviewing the eyewitnesses? The Dickman legal team, uninterested in any eyewitness conversations, said they went by the SAIT-SAIR. And the SAIT was obviously ONLY choosing 'audio / visuals' that support the original SAIR narrative.


Similarly, this sounds a lot like our other favorite author team, (e.g. MacLean and Neill) and their ostensible "official" consecration as well - 'Decision(s) on Saturday were a root cause of the fatalities on Sunday, June 30, 2013.' Ya just have to ask: "How can decisions made on Saturday be majorly responsible for the deaths of 19 young WFs the next day, on Sunday?" Right? Possibly, a weak contributory causal factor at most.

Figure 15. Page Fifteen of 52 (Transition From Stand Two to Stand Three) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


Figure 16. Page Sixteen of 52 (Stand Three - Top of the Ridge - "Sensemaking and Communications" - Different Windows - Which One Do You Chose?") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 17. Page Seventeen of 52 (Stand Three - Stand Three -"Sensemaking and Communications") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


Figure 17a. Page Seventeen of 52 (Stand Three - Sensemaking and Communications") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride with Brit Rosso (left); John Truett (middle); Darrel Willis (right); and orange jacket unknown (far right). Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 18. Page Eighteen of 52 (Stand 3A - Fire Progression Map (1345 to 1400) - YH Fire Resources on 6/30/2013) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


Figure 19. Page Nineteen of 52 (Stand 3A - Fire Progression Map Legend (1345 to 1400) - YH Fire Resources on 6/30/2013) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry



Figure 20. Page Twenty of 52 (Stand 3A - "Sensemaking and Communications") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 21. Page Twenty-One of 52 (Stand 3B - "Sensemaking and Communications") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


Consider now the Blue Box enclosed "Questions for Students of Fire: This is a perfect opportunity to discuss our common lack of resilience in the face of an objective that which could not be achieved. "


Discussing the "common lack of resilience in the face of an objective that which could not be achieved," is especially relevant when talking about the GMHS, because there was almost always the same answer. A classic response from Marsh, on numerous wildfires, when other IHCs had turned down assignments or given other, safer options was, 'we are Granite Mountain and we think we can pull it off.' And they did. Until the June 30, 2013, YH Fire!


We allege that this was their "steady drift into failure" based on the Dianne Vaughan's definitive "Normalization of Deviance" covered elsewhere on this website in various posts.


1) What are the barriers to recognizing the objective is no longer attainable, how to we create resilience to failure?


Researchers Hollnagel, Woods, and Leveson (2006) proposed that the study of safety and risk be reoriented toward the study of resilience: “To understand how failure sometimes happens one must first understand how success is obtained” (p. 3). Just as skill and human error are flip sides of the same coin, so vulnerability and resilience may be considered counterparts. However, the zeitgeist may now have turned in favor of studies of adaptability, success, and resilience rather than limitations, failure, and vulnerability." (emphasis added)


At a minimum, the barriers (avoidable) are the "Hybrid" Municipal / Wildland FF mindset in wildland firefighting; Groupthink; Trips to Abilene; and an atmosphere / culture of a strict need for and adherence to the potentially dangerous "Team Player" attitude of "go along to get along," so often parroted as a requirement by IMTs and inflexible Overhead.


In fact, SAIT Co-Team Leader Mike Dudley buttressed this in his YH Fire presentation at the September 16-20, 2014, Fire Department Safety Officer Association (FDSOA) conference in Scottsdale, AZ and stated that he felt there was a "Prescott FD mindset." And he also said: "I truly believe they [GMHS] were truly surprised by the fire" which supports this website's basic theme of a firing operation, in at least three separate areas, along the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor, by numerous local FDs, in the final 18-20 minutes prior to their burnover.


2) Is it hard to realize and communicate that our "objective to establish [an] anchor point is no longer achievable and is now meaningless" ?


It is hard to realize if you are used to being told to strictly "follow orders," or to mindlessly be a "Team Player," or under the domineering, adverse and threatening influence of your Crew's Groupthink as the GMHS were on June 30, 2013.


3) How do you as a leader create a "command climate" that encourages such discussion during operations?


Definitely, the opposite of what GMHS / DIVS A Marsh had previously exploited in the months and years past. And how he was coercing Steed and thereby adversely influencing the other GMHS, to abandon their perfectly adequate Safety Zone on the afternoon of June 30, 2013.


Figure 22. Page Twenty-Two of 52 (Stand 3B - "Sensemaking and Communications" - Different

Windows - Which Do You Choose?) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


Figure 23. Page Twenty-Three of 52 (Stand Three - "Sensemaking and Communications") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry



Figure 24. Page Twenty-Four of 52 (Stand Four - "The Closing Window" - Why margins matter as windows close in time and space) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry


We will briefly address one of their "Learning themes implementation" questions: "Why are they moving? Where are they going? What are they doing? Look up the ridge; 6 foot vegetation, is that an escape route?" (emphasis added)

Consider these three nebulous questions that many WFs and FFs working the fire that day know the answers to. Many had cell phone conversations with GMHS, or cell phone or other recordings of what's often referred to as the ongoing GMHS "discussing our options" GMHS Crew Net radio conversation: Why are they moving? Because it's well known that DIVS A Marsh was basically browbeating Steed to leave their Safety Zone in the black to head down to the Boulder Springs Ranch (BSR). Where are they going? Same answer. What are they doing? Minus the benefit of a required Lookout, the GMHS also failed to notify Air Attack, or DIVS A notify OPS of their location, intentions, end state, etc. while leaving good black at the worst possible time with fire and weather environment factors coming into alignment.


So then, suppose you do have a proposed Escape Route, through a brush-field. What is the issue / problem with 6 foot vegetation, and whether that is an escape route? Our basic S-130 training teaches us that recognizing and mitigating Watch Out No, 17 warns us. (In)experienced WFs and Crews instinctively know they need to cut a "P-Line" along their Escape Route to open it up for easier travel. There has always been talk (and some evidence) of cut brush stobs along an alleged GMHS Escape / Travel Route in the BSR area.



Figure 25. Page Twenty-Five of 52 (Stand Four - "The Closing Window") of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry

Figure 26. Page Twenty-Six of 52 (Stand Four - "The Closing Window" - Two more orienting images from around 1600 on 30 June 2013) of the "official" Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride Source: Arizona State Forestry, GMHS McDonough



Consider continuing on to: Staff Ride PART TWO; Do the Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Rides by Arizona State Forestry provide that specific perspective of strategy, technology, and leadership? After reviewing their 52-page Facilitator Guide - did you even take that route that day?

Figure 27. Happy Holidays Source: Simon ssays123, Wordpress.com

Ephesians 5:11


11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (ESV)


Updates: Figures, captions, and fonts made uniform; minor grammatical, logical and spelling errors corrected April 5-14, 2020


6-22-13 1:29pm Chris MacKenzie IMG_0869 

Source: Yavapai County Records/SAIT Report/Documents.

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