Part 2 - 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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Continuing from "Part 1 - Do our Wildland Fire (WF) Instructors foster "complete" lessons learned in the WF culture?"...due to this message when trying to put blog on said I had to break part one into several posts:
Check out this amazing time-lapse video clip of the Bighorn Fire on Mt. Lemmon outside of Tucson, AZ. The fire definitely signals its intentions for quite awhile, and the HS Crew (or whomever) waited way too long to fire off their line around the metal structure. By The Grace of God they pulled it off.
Figure 2. Bighorn Fire. Mount Lemmon FD 2 Time-Lapse video. 2020-06-17 Source: Southern AZ Time Lapses, Mt. Lemmon FD, YouTube
Please note in the video above that the Wildland Firefighters (WFs) waited way too long to fire out their line around the metal building.
This comment was sent to me by a WF that was on the Big Horn Fire: 'the burnout around the metal building in the Mt. Lemmon area during the Big Horn Fire. I'm not sure if you are aware, but the metal building and equipment stored in that area was NOT saved, so I don't know that I'd consider this success in "pulling it off". I did not see it first hand (I'm sure you can verify): however, that metal (open air) structure was lost, as well as a lot of fire supplies that had been cached there in the parking lot. Ironically, it is right across the street from the Mt. Lemmon Fire Station. I was there for a while, before the fire got close, and can assure you that it did not have to have become a loss. There was enough room to safely position engines, particularly considering the time they had to pre-treat the area. Instead it was just a time for picture taking and overhead to yack. There were CAFS [Compressed Air Foam System] engines available that could have successfully foamed everything down. pulled back (if fire was too intense) and then immediately re-entered to extinguish hot spots. When the fire began to make it's run, everyone was told to pull back to a safe area (heard this on radio). I'm surprised they didn't lose any other structures.'
'And more from a WF that worked on the Bighorn Fire: "Additionally, the metal building was maybe 200 yards from the terminus of a steep chute and essentially at the same elevation as the top of the chute, on the southerly ridge that made up one side of the chute. The slope behind the building was easily 50%, if not more, and again near the top of a chute/chimney. Certainly slope was very much in favor of flames moving up behind the building.'
Figure 3. Bighorn Fire (Summerhaven area looking NE;17:00) Source / Copyright: Ryan Helms
Figure 3a. Buddy Source / Copyright: Joy A Collura
Indeed, the fireline can change rapidly, hence that need for adhering to the 10 & 18 and LCES. And it seems like a lot of these WFs / FFs above in this Bighorn Fire time-lapse video overlooked the importance of firing out their line sooner than later - always a good idea on firing operations. The system is already in place to speak up, however, the actual results are mixed, inconsistent, and discouraging, thus promoting non-compliance.
“Following an accident, a “stand-down” should be an accepted practice for those involved, until the facts can be sorted out. However, it is a shame that our focus on accountability too often occurs after an accident. Culturally, we must shift the weight of accountability to the time before an accident takes shape. We must embrace the rules of engagement as a way of doing business—as a professional standard. Violation of any Fire Order must prompt management or supervisory intervention and, unless rapidly corrected, be unarguable grounds for release from the fireline, release from the incident, or - if egregious - serious personnel action. (emphasis added) (Williams 2002) I agree with a short "stand down" as long as we are given some quick "facts" while honestly sorting out the facts Sadly, this "culture" has long been abandoned by an unethical, far from law abiding management.
“However, we must not adhere to the Fire Orders for fear of punishment. We must embrace the Fire Orders because we owe it to one another. In that sense, the Fire Orders must become a shared obligation, where the leader’s situational awareness depends on participation by the entire crew and where the crew’s participation is tempered with respect for the leader’s responsibility. Borrowing from the aviation community’s model of Cockpit/ Crew Resource Management, we must focus fireline operations more on what is right than on who is right.” (emphasis added) (Williams 2002) This is basically the "Old School" way of wildland firefighting. And unfortunately, we fail to learn "complete" lessons because we are told that there was no blame, no fault, and no indications of any of these due to human factors.
This paper will use the term Human Error to mean the errors that are made during direct interface or direct influence of the process.
Human Factors are those aspects of the process and related systems that make it more likely for the human to make a mistake that in turn causes or could cause a deviation in the process or could in some indirect way lead to the increased probability of an accidental loss.
Bridges, W. & Tew, R. (2010) Human Factors Elements Missing from Process Safety Management (PSM). Process Improvement Institute, Inc. (PII)
( https://www.process-improvement-institute.com/_downloads/Human_Factors_Elements_Missing_from_PSM.pdf )
We fail to learn. We all know the person that has 20 years of experience but it’s really the same year over and over. Well, that person is sometimes us. If we don’t understand how we learn, we’re likely to make the same mistakes over and over. (Farnum Street)
Here is a portion of an ADOSH interview quote from an "Old School" WF named Bill Astor (listed as "Safety Officer, [IMT] and facilities Safety Officer") in his ADOSH interview(s), which gives me hope.
"... [W]e have the 10 & 18, you know -- some people would say they’re guidelines -- for us they’re - they’re rules - they’re policy - uh, they deal with fire behavior, they deal with - with organizational control, they - they deal with, uh, a myriad of - of, uh, issues and incidents that you could come into contact with and - and these 10 & 18 were developed as result of, you know, unfortunately catastrophes that we’ve just experienced and they’ve been developed in the field and they - they’ve been looked at by fire experts over the years and practiced - but th- these - these, uh, rules -- and - and I call them rules in my moniker -- are things that you cannot break, you cannot bend and you cannot walk away from. These are pre- pretty staunch rules of, uh, fireline activity and - and how you fight fire in a safe manner." (emphasis added)
INTERVIEW WITH BILL ASTOR - Interviewer: [ADOSH] Brett Steurer 10-18/8:05 am Case # AZSF - P. 8 (emphasis added - line numbers removed)
Over the years, I have had numerous WFs and FFs tell me: "If this newer, 'kinder, gentler' generation of WFs and FFs loses this 'Old School' way of thinking and fighting wildfires, then they are basically f**ked, because they'll never be able to get it back." Stay the course and "go back to the basics" of the "LCES and the 10 & 18" because they work every time you utilize them.
2. Weather and Extreme Fire Behavior
MetEd The COMET Program - Unit 11 Extreme Fire Behavior
NWCG S-290 Unit 11 - Extreme Fire Behavior
( http://stream1.cmatc.cn/pub/comet/FireWeather/S290Unit11ExtremeWildlandFireBehavior/comet/fire/s290/unit11/navmenu.php_tab_1_page_1.0.0.htm )
S-290 Extreme Fire Behavior - Slide Share
Weather and Wind Warnings - NWCG WFSTAR
Werth et al (2011) Synthesis of knowledge of extreme fire behavior: volume I for fire managers
( https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwi_4aODuYDqAhVBjp4KHU2cAvc4ChAWMAB6BAgDEAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.fs.fed.us%2Fpnw%2Fpubs%2Fpnw_gtr854.pdf&usg=AOvVaw0eWK0BO3RDl0E7jlJMU96r )
Tedim, F.; Leone, V.; Amraoui, M.; Bouillon, C.; Coughlan, M.R.; Delogu, G.M.; Fernandes, P.M.; Ferreira, C.; McCaffrey, S.; McGee, T.K.; Parente, J.; Paton, D.; Pereira, M.G.; Ribeiro, L.M.; Viegas, D.X.; Xanthopoulos, G. (2018) Defining Extreme Wildfire Events: Difficulties, Challenges, and Impacts. Fire, 1. ( https://www.mdpi.com/2571-6255/1/1/9 )
A. General Weather and Fire Weather Sources
NOAA.gov ( https://www.noaa.gov/ ) Weather (cloud + sun image) upper left icon
Figure 4. NOAA.gov Home Page. Subject icons left column (Weather = cloud + sun)."Find local weather" search box upper right (Any city location (must use comma) and state or Zip Code works) Source: NOAA
Figure 4a. NOAA.gov Weather Page (cloud + sun). Reveals weather forecast office and Current, Extended, Detailed Conditions Page (upper and left third); Additional Forecasts and information (bottom left); Click Map for specific forecast by lat / long (green map - right third); Additional Information (right side) Radar and Satellite Imagery, Hourly Weather Graph; National Digital Forecast Database. Source: NOAA
Several "Old School" Fire Weather meteorologists suggest that we concentrate on the more reliable Hourly Weather Graph for more detailed Fire Weather data, thus ignoring the Current, Extended, and Detailed Conditions with daily / nightly images and daily / nightly text for the week (upper and left third); "Click Map for Forecast Area" allows base map choices (e.g. topographic, satellite) and specific weather for wherever you click; detailed "Forecast Discussion" link; Additional Information (right side)
Consider now the Hourly Weather Graph - a very cool, very accurate, very reliable fire weather tool that allows you to forecast specific fire weather data and values
Figure 5. (left) Hourly Generic Weather Graph. Top row columns - "Weather Elements, Weather / Precipitation, Fire Weather; Bottom 3/4 - "48-hour period starting" drop-down arrow; "Submit" tab for changing settings; "Back / Forward 2 days" tabs Source: NOAA
Generic "Weather Elements" data /values for "Heat Index, Dew Point, Temperature, Gusts, Surface Wind, Relative Humidity, Precipitation Potential, Sky Cover, Rain, Thunder" can be engineered specifically to meet your Fire Weather needs.
Figure 5a. (right) NOAA.gov Weather - Hourly WX Graph - specific for Fire Weather Source: NOAA
To accomplish this, uncheck "Heat Index, Precipitation Potential, Sky Cover, Rain, and Thunder" for replacing with Fire Weather Elements. And then, check "Mixing Heights, Haines, Lightning Activity Level (LAL), Transport Wind, 20 ft Wind, Ventilation Rate, Atmospheric Dispersion Index, Low Visibility Occurrence Risk Index, Tuner Stability Index. Click the "Submit" tab to change to new
The Low Visibility Occurrence Risk Index (LVORI) arose from some essential research and development because of several serious fatal and non-fatal Florida and Georgia automobile accident reports when fog and smoke [Super Fog] was a factor. These were related to two types of fog: advection and radiation. The data suggest that localized radiation fogs pose greater hazards than widespread advection fogs (Lavdas and Achtemeier, 1995). The LVORI is settings.
an index for the probability of low visibility, and ranges from 1 - 10, depending on the relative humidity and smoke dispersion index. A 1 means there is almost no chance of low visibility, while a 10 indicates low visibility is likely. This Index is a function of relative humidity and smoke dispersion index.
The Turner Stability Index is a function of the Net Radiation Index (NRI), and wind speed. The NRI is an indicator of exposure to
the sun's rays, i.e. insolation. The rate of pollutant dispersion within the atmosphere is largely dependent on stability. Atmospheric stability is determined by the rate of temperature change with respect to height within the atmosphere.
This method assigns a dispersion rate to the lower atmosphere according to one of seven stability classes ranging from extremely unstable through neutral to extremely stable. The class is determined from solar elevation angle, wind speed, opaque cloud cover, and cloud ceiling height.
This Hourly Weather Graph is definitely a must for prescribed (RX) burns and firing operations with the potential for hazardous smoke conditions adversely affecting driving. ( https://www.ncforestservice.gov/fire_control/fc_lvori.htm )
See also, Wildland Fire Smoke and Roadway Visibility - Predict, Prepare and Avert Accidents Part 2: Weather Information & Tools; Curcio, G.M. (2017) North Carolina Forest Service - webinar recording link and presentation slides PDF. Obtaining and tracking key environmental variables. Reviewing operationally developed indexes (Turner Stability Index (TS), Atmospheric Dispersion Index (ADI), Low Visibility Occurrence Risk Index (LVORI). Superfog Matrix Smart Tool for NWS Weather Forecasting Offices. ( https://www.frames.gov/catalog/24247 )
B. Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Water Vapor Imagery (WVI) - a means to actually "see" the dry air (subsidence) aloft
Go to NOAA.gov >>> Weather (upper left column) >>> GOES Image Viewer - Sector Image Viewer (satellites)
GOES Image Viewer ( https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/sector.php?sat=G16§or=sr ) Scroll down to Bands 8, 9, and 10 for WVI.
Figure 6. NOAA.gov Satellite Water Vapor Imagery - Sector Images snippet Source: NOAA