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  • Authors - S130 / S190 / L180 Lead Instructor Fred J. Schoeffler and Co-Instructor / SME ( YH Fire ) Joy A. Collura

Part 1 - Do our Wildland Fire (WF) Instructors foster "complete" lessons learned in the WF culture?

Authors - S130 / S190 / L180 Lead Instructor Fred J. Schoeffler and Co-Instructor / SME ( YH Fire ) Joy A. Collura


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"[F]or gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, and knowledge and discretion to the young - let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance - for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise."

Proverbs 1: 2-7


Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” Confucius

Figure 1. Blowup to Burnover - Only Minutes poster Source: WFSTAR


Borrowing quotes from a Farnum Street Brainfood Newsletter article: "Sometimes we see systems where everyone involved seems to be doing things in a completely ineffective and inefficient way. A single small tweak could make everything substantially better - save lives, be more productive, save resources. ..." (emphasis added)


"While decision makers are trying to manipulate their environment, their environment is trying to manipulate them." (emphasis added)


"Many of the major problems we see around us are coordination failures. They are only solvable if everyone can agree to do the same thing at the same time." (emphasis added)


"We choose what makes sense given the existing incentives, which often discourage us from challenging the status quo. It often makes most sense to do what everyone else is doing ...," (emphasis added) i.e. Groupthink"

Behaviour is contagious because we catch it from other people. Much of what we do results from unconscious mimicry of others around us."

Rory Sutherland


"It only takes a small proportion of people to change their opinions to reach a tipping point where there is strong incentive for everyone to change their behavior, and this is magnified even more if those people have a high degree of influence. The more power those who enact change have, the faster everyone else can do the same." (emphasis added)


"To overcome coordination failures, we need to be able to communicate despite our differences. And we need to be able to trust that when we act, others will act too. The initial kick can be enough people making their actions visible. Groups can have exponentially greater impacts than individuals. We thus need to think beyond the impact of our own actions and consider what will happen when we act as part of a group." (emphasis added)


"The more public and visible the change is, the better." (emphasis added)


"We can prevent coordination failures in the first place by visible guarantees that those who take a different course of action will not suffer negative consequences." (emphasis added) (fs - 2020)



I. Introduction


In order to foster "complete" lessons learned in the WF culture, we have to "go back to the basics" as they say. And the basics that we consider important are "Human Factors", the "10 & 18," LCES, Entrapment Avoidance, Leadership, S-290 and Extreme Fire Behavior, NOAA.gov, Hourly Weather Graph, Satellite Water Vapor Imagery, and High Reliability Organizations (HRO) principles.


A. The "10 and 18" are the Ten Standard Fire Orders and the Eighteen Situations That Shout Watch Out or the Watch Out Situations.


The Fire Orders are arranged according to their importance and grouped in a logical sequence. They are broken into three groups, (i.e. Fire Behavior, Safety, and Organizational). After you have considered, discussed, and acted on the previous nine orders, then you "Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first."


NWCG recommends that you review and consider the Standard Fire Orders as a part of every shift. Here is an NWCG 6-Minutes for Safety link with the This Day In History article titled: History of the Fire Orders

( https://www.nwcg.gov/committee/6mfs/origin-of-the-10-and-18s )


Regarding the Ten Standard Fire Orders and Entrapment Avoidance, I have a preference for this former, well respected, somewhat controversial USFS Fire Director's viewpoints. In 2002, Jerry Williams, the former Director of Fire and Aviation Management, USDA Forest Service, Washington Office, Washington, DC, wrote an article for Fire Management Today (Issue 62, pp. 31-35) that specifically addresses the value of the Fire Orders. What follows is based on remarks made by the him at the National Fire and Aviation Management Meeting from February 25 to March 1, 2002, in Scottsdale, AZ. It is most unfortunate that so many in the wildland firefighting culture have strayed far and wide from this sage counsel.


In other words, this germane wildland fire information and these valued lessons learned that Mr. Williams offered in 2002, were clearly available to ALL WFs and FFs engaged in wildland firefighting in 2013, including the GMHS. Apparently, all others on the YH Fire that day followed Mr. William's sage advice. And literally tens of thousands of WFs and FFs engaged in wildland firefighting effectively and safely utilize them every single fire season. This is factual and far from hindsight bias!


These valuable "Old School" lessons learned that Mr. Williams offered in 2002, were clearly available to ALL WFs and FFs engaged in wildland firefighting in 2013, including the GMHS. Apparently, all others on the YH Fire that day followed Mr. William's sage advice. And literally tens of thousands of WFs and FFs engaged in wildland firefighting effectively and safely utilize them every single fire season. This is factual and far afield of hindsight bias!


(https://www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/files/fire-management-today/62-4.pdf)


“I regard it as a criminal waste of time to go through the slow and painful ordeal of ascertaining things for one’s self if these same things have already been ascertained and made available by others.”

Thomas Edison

B. Firm Rules of Engagement

The Ten Standard Firefighting Orders must be firm rules of engagement. They cannot be simple guidelines, and they cannot be “bargained.” They are the result of hard-learned lessons. Compromising one or more of them is a common denominator of all tragedy fires. On the Dude, South Canyon, and Thirtymile Fires, the Fire Orders were ignored, overlooked, or otherwise compromised." (emphasis added) (Williams 2002)


Unfortunately, many of today's WFs and FFs engaging in wildland firefighting do not subscribe to this sage professional advice. And worst of all, the Investigation Teams, Learning Reviews, et al refuse to utilize these as a template or standard any longer; in favor of "tell us your story" instead.


We should look at fatality incidents starting months before the accident and ask ourselves, “Why did everything they did make sense to them at the time?” (Dave Thomas and Donna Hunter)


“When they (HROs) ‘recognize’ an event as something they have experienced before and understood, that recognition is a source of concern rather than comfort. The concern is that superficial similarities between the present and the past mask deeper differences that could prove fatal.” (Karl E. Weick)


“The Fire Orders mean little after we are in trouble. That is why we must routinely observe them and rely on them before we get into trouble. We [all] know that no fire shelter can ensure survival all of the time under all circumstances. Entrapment avoidance must be our primary emphasis and our measure of professional operational success." (all emphasis added) (Williams 2002)


For "complete" lessons learned, the proactive "entrapment avoidance" training should be mandatory instead of the alleged "factual" SAIT-SAIRs of all the historical wildland firefighting mishaps - fatal and otherwise - that disingenuously and falsely conclude no fault, no blame, no violations of policy, reckless actions, protocol, or procedure.


“Conditions on the fireline can rapidly change. In the pressure of the moment, it is easy for people to overlook something important. That is why we must encourage our firefighters to speak up when they notice safety being compromised. As Weick and Sutcliffe point out, 'people who refuse to speak up out of fear enact a system that knows less than it must to remain effective. We must promote a working environment where even our greenest firefighters feel free to speak up." (emphasis added) (Williams 2002)




On to "Part 1a - Do our Wildland Fire (WF) Instructors foster "complete" lessons learned in the WF culture?" ...


Update October 19th 5:33pm- Fred J. Schoeffler has my full permission to use any and all content from "Part 1 - Do our Wildland Fire (WF) Instructors foster "complete" lessons learned in the WF culture?" on his new "Project 10 and 18 United" / "Project 10 and 18 International" blog he is creating.- Joy A. Collura