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  • Writer's pictureDoug Fir 777

Speak Ill of the Dead and Lie Or Honor the Dead & Search For The Truth They're Public Figures? Pt 1

Douglas Fir and contributing authors

Restating the post title beyond the limited Wix title allowance: Speaking Ill of the Dead By Lying About Them? Or Honoring the Dead By Searching For The Truth If They're Considered as Public Figures? Part 1

Views expressed to "the public at large” and "of public concern"

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Abbreviations used: Wildland Firefighters (WFs) - Firefighters (FFs).

All emphasis is added unless otherwise noted.


"If you will not believe,

Surely you shall not be established.”

Isaiah 7:9 (NKJV)


Sooner or later ... one has to take sides –

if one is to remain human.

Graham Greene (novelist, short story writer, travel writer, and critic)


In a time of universal deceit,

telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

George Orwell - Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. (1903-1950)


Prepare yourselves - you will very likely be challenged ... "And most importantly, understanding your emotions will help you realize there is nothing wrong with you; it's just something you are going through, which relieves a sense of helplessness. ... It is your birthright to be emotionally nourished." (Julie Nguyen, Relationship Coach) [Really? Your birthright?]

Figure 1. Emotion (Feeling) Wheel Source: mbgmindfulness

The wheel identifies eight primary human emotions and tiers of related, more nuanced versions of those primary emotions. Along the outer edges of the emotion wheel, you'll find low-intensity emotions such as acceptance, distraction, boredom, and so on. As you move toward the center, the color on the emotion wheel deepens and milder emotions become your basic emotions. (G. Espinoza-mbgmindfulness 5/23/21)


This post will initially discuss and examine the "whistle-blower" and "truth teller" dichotomy and distinction. The alleged "lying" versus "telling the truth" standards should be self evident and therefore covered in context. The dichotomy of "complete" versus "incomplete" lessons learned is next. A somewhat detailed brief discussion on the historical fatal July 6, 1994, South Canyon Fire in CO and attempting to discuss and examine the human factors and human failures of the 14 individuals that perished, and comparing it to the June 30, 2013, YH Fire and GMHS tragedy in AZ follows. The use, benefit, value, and availability of Staff Rides and Site visits and, of course, the palpable favoritism or exclusion for selection based on the interested applicant's stance on the YH Fire and GMHS tragedy. The in-depth genesis and history of the derogatory and even unethical phrases and alleged actions and behaviors of "speaking ill of the dead" and "defaming the dead." Contrast those with the more beneficial and positive healing aspects of "honoring the dead." Next are the Ninth Circuit ruling on a First Amendment Free Speech issue regarding whether "bloggers" have the same First Amendment rights as journalists (Crystal Cox vs. Obsidian Finance Group) and the legal principles of "the public at large” and "of public concern" cited on this website. Then discussion and examination of "Conspiracy Theory" and labeling others as "Conspiracy Theorists" as a means to discredit and distract. And credible research debunking the matter. Further discussion and examination of the SAIT-SAIR and their Orwellian attempts to give credence to their "Factual" assertions and "Sensemaking" placing the burden of reaching conclusions and such on the SAIT-SAIR "readers." Brief in-depth discussion on the various 18 United States Code (USC) criminal violations regarding fraud, document and record (mis)management, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and racketeering violations regarding the scores of YH Fire and GMHS Federal and State "Public Records." A FaceBook email thread discussing the YH Fire SAIT and such with one of the SAIT Subject Matter Experts. Brief examination and discussion of the alleged "Underground" Honor the Fallen Group. Several other examples of literally scores of the phrases, testimonials, and such about the June 2013 YH Fire that appear during Google searches.

Among other things, the intent of this YHFR post is to highlight the potential gaps in understanding the nuances of what is conventionally referred to as "whistle-blowing." This author prefers the more positive alternative phrase "truth telling" instead. And that includes debunking the Party-Line Naysayers' false accusations of us "speaking ill of the dead" while the fact of the matter is that we are "honoring the dead" by revealing what we believe are valid counter arguments to their negative emotional pejorative and our solid support for the optimistic compliment above.

This author prefers the more positive term "truth-teller" moniker over "whistleblower" due to the negative connotations and repercussions attributed to that label. The concept of whistleblowing is as old as society itself. The ancient Greeks had a term for it: parrhēsia, or fearless speech. Antecedents to modern whistleblowing laws can be found in feudal England. Millennia later, the act of whistleblowing has lost none of its importance – as the Zombie Apocalypse Virus (Covid-19 pandemic) has amply demonstrated. This author prefers that moniker because of its First Amendment violations of Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech. In a word, this author also credits the aggressively acclaimed and highly successful Government Accountability Project for being in the vanguard protecting and providing for whistleblowers, defined as "those individuals who challenge abuses of power that betray the public trust."

It has become clear that we must look elsewhere for the real answers and the truth about the June 30, 2013, YH Fire and GMHS debacle. Observing a day of remembrance is not enough to honor their legacy. Nor is glorifying them as all as so-called "heroes." And the notion that the GMHS "willingly gave their lives" to protect Yarnell is pure histrionics. Their lives were taken from them by those individuals wielding a perverted sense of leadership. It is vital that the wildland fire community assume the responsibility to understand the root causes of these accidents and alleged “lessons learned,” in order avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Conventional lessons learned wisdom says that if one understands the root causes of human failure, one can take steps to lessen and possibly even prevent that type of failure in the future. Everyone initially expressed the shock, confusion, and sorrow they felt on June 30, 2013. That initial shock has long faded, however, the confusion part remains for those of us still seeking the truth of this matter. At the outset, regarding alleged "(in)complete lessons learned” from both a non-wildfire and a historical fatal wildfire - wildland fire human factors and leadership - it’s important to hearken back to 1994, to set the stage with a well-known fatality wildfire. Conventional lessons learned wisdom says that if one understands the root causes of human failure, one can take steps to prevent that type of failure again. This should reduce the chance of further error and any misconceptions. However, most of the reduction and incompleteness of the disaster descriptions seems to be intentional rather than error. The SAIT-SAIR authors avoid telling the ‘whole story,’ because they find no need to tell it to support their argument or consider some of it too obvious to mention.

The Reduction of Complexity in Disasters by Dutch researcher Christel Geurts, Univ. of Twente (Nov. 2, 2013) is an informative paper worth a read that the SAIT would have had access to for the SAIT-SAIR fictional "story."

In 1995, as a result of the July 1994 South Canyon Fire, this author, as the Southwest Area (SWA) Hot Shot Steering Committee Chairman, recalls initiating the difficult but necessary discussion about the causal human factors and leadership issues that led to the fatal outcome when 14 wildland firefighters (USFS Hot Shots, Smokejumpers, and Helitack) were killed. Our meeting entailed a joint 1995 SWA and Rocky Mountain (RM) Regional Hot Shot Workshop and took place in Grand Junction, CO.

Just like first hearing about the Yarnell Hill Fire and GMHS tragedy, we all know where we were when we heard of the deadly South Canyon Fire.

Many of the RM Region Hot Shots were immediately taken aback when this author publicly broached the causal human factors and leadership issues. They emotionally asserted something to the effect of "these men and women were our friends and co-workers, we can't talk about that." This author's and some others' comebacks were something to the effect of 'yes, they are/were your friends, however, we must honor them by discussing these things for the lessons we can learn from what happened and why it happened. They made some bad decisions and fatal mistakes.'

So then, by extension, we absolutely must always ask these question(s) in all tragic wildfires - Why is it that we are "allowed" to talk about, discuss, and analyze all other wildland fire mishaps and fatalities except for the most tragic one of all to date - the June 30, 2013, Yarnell Hill Fire and GMHS debacle? Why are we openly "allowed" to discuss it but only if it goes along with or squares with the September 23, 2013, "factual" Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT) and Report (SAIR)? Why is that?

And why is it that the YH Fire Staff Rides offered by the AZ State Forestry and Omna International, LLC are so highly and intensely vetted and so disparately restrictive to preempt any contrary, and thus controversial viewpoints? Where the "truth doesn't matter in a Staff Ride" according to an Arizona State Forestry (ASF) Staff Ride Coordinator (former CDF). And having the Blue Ridge HS Supt. Brian Frisby be a participant and SME somehow considered and documented in an AAR or as feedback as "a distraction" by one of the cadre or participant(s) on prior Staff Rides.

And then in this author's professional opinion, there is the crown jewel of YH Fire and GMHS debacle "why" questions. Why is the highly acclaimed, annual week-long Arizona Wildland Fire Incident and Management Academy (AWIMA), located in the very heartland of the epic event, during the second week in March during the annual Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Spring Break has no such thing as a one-week YH Fire and GMHS Site Visit or Staff Ride? AWIMA describes itself as "a week-long training venue that offers over 45 classes in all levels of wildland fire and incident management training. ... The mission of the [AWIMA] is to develop professional and safe responses in the wildland/all hazard environment by offering training and education that meets or exceeds the National Wildfire Coordinating Group [NWCG] and FEMA standards. Our goals, dedication and passion is firefighter safety. That everyone goes home every time. It is the foundation of our organization. The Academy provides the catalyst to bring all-hazard responders together each year to provide quality training and updates on the latest safety protocols. The academy is attended annually by emergency response agencies throughout the country with over 20 states represented each year." Surely, you and others have noted that on your previous AWIMA-requested Feedback or Evaluation comments, and wondered about and discussed this with other like-minded individuals, right? Why is that?


Consider the March 2023 AWIMA Schedule of Classes below in Figure 1a. and see if you can find a YH Fire Staff Ride or Site Visit? Where are they?

Figure 1a. Snippet of 2023 AWIMA Schedule of Classes Source: AWIMA

Consider now several probable germane "why" reasons for the lack of an AWIMA YH Fire and GMHS Staff Ride and / or Site Visit that are contained in these professionally accepted law reviews and articles, case studies, definitions, and research regarding defamation, the primary subject at issue, i.e. "speaking ill of the dead" or the converse "honoring the dead."

"Defamation is a tort which is a civil wrong with respect to a person’s reputation. Dead people don’t have a reputation in the eyes of the law. For this reason, surviving relatives will not prevail if they bring a cause of action for defamation to protect the good name of the deceased."

California Defamation Law blog

"Journalism is often called the first draft of history. Protection is given to official documents, formal press releases and press conferences and other information issued for the benefit of the public." The Guardian (8/1/03)

[This astute University of Michigan law school instructor ("a political theorist, not a lawyer") does an extensive and rather exhaustive work (288 pages!) on the long and drawn out history of "Defaming the Dead" dating back to the 1600's English and American Colonial Era which dovetails quite well with this post on "speaking ill of the dead." Subsequently, the phrase "Defaming the dead" is understandably mentioned 54 times, while the word "libel" is written 137 times, "defamation" is mentioned 138 times, the word "dead" is mentioned 466 times, the phrase "the dead" is only mentioned 259 times; while the word "slander" is only mentioned 30 times in his treatise. Paradoxically and surprisingly, the words "honor' and "honoring" are only mentioned ten times and once, respectively, while the word "dishonoring" is only mentioned one time. His treatise (he calls it a book) is handily parsed out accordingly: Preface ix, One Embezzled, Diddled, and Popped 1, Two Tort’s Landscape 27, Three Speak No Evil 68, Four Legal Dilemmas 103, Five Corpse Desecration 159, Six “This Will Always Be There,” 219, and Index 267]

]He begins his treatise with a Glasgow Herald (2 7 July 1926) quote below:

"The just and proper jealousy with which the law protects the reputation of a living man forms a curious contrast to its impotence when the good name of a dead man is attacked. When a man dies, the law will secure that any reasonable provision which he has made for the disposal of his property is duly carried into effect and that his money shall pass to those whom he has selected as his heirs. He leaves behind him a reputation as well as an estate, but the law, so zealous in its regard for the material things, has no protection to give to that which the dead man regarded as a more precious possession than money or lands. The dead cannot raise a libel action, and it is possible to bring grave charges against their memory without being called upon to justify these charges in a court of law or to risk penalties for slander and defamation. The possibilities of injustice are obvious.— “

And he then continues with "Rhode Island has a curious statute. It says that if you’re defamed in an obituary within three months of your death, your estate can sue. Why curious? Because as far as I know, it’s the only such law in the United States. Any journalist will assure you it’s axiomatic that there’s no such thing as defaming the dead. Not that it’s impossible to publish false statements of fact that damage their reputations: nothing easier. Rather that once you’re dead, tort law will not protect your reputation. Except, in this severely limited way, in Rhode Island.

I think that’s lamentable. I think we have reputational interests that survive our deaths. And I think tort law ought to protect them. (Preface) ... it’s not really the dead who are injured by defamation, but their aggrieved family and friends, ... In cases of defamation per se, the law assumes without further evidence that the plaintiff has suffered reputational harm: ... In all other putative defamation cases, the law is agnostic: it hands off to whatever community is at stake the question of whether the claim does reputational harm. ...These writers rallied to underline the public benefits of speaking ill of the dead when the ill is deserved; that is, when the charges are truthful; it’s a mistake to imagine that de mortuis underwrites the case for making it a tort to defame the dead. It’s a mistake to imagine that the critics I’ve quoted expose that case as silly. To the contrary! So far as they’re complaining that de mortuis is overinclusive, their views explain why tort law shouldn’t make it actionable to offer truthful criticism of the dead. But truth is not defamatory anyway, whether the target of the attack is alive or dead. (p. 62) More generally, de mortuis was pernicious nonsense that would make it impossible to write history, impossible to inspire readers to be moral ... the paradox is only apparent—it’s okay, all things considered, to criticize the dead. ... We’re still trying to sort out whether it makes any sense to think there’s a presumptive injury here, even if we finally decide that offsetting considerations suggest that tort liability must be carefully refined—or precluded outright. ... It is an apparently absolute proscription. ... Right or wrong, the law is adamant. ... the wrongfulness of defaming a man “incapable of protecting his own reputation” ... scandalum magnatum ... The situation of the public: it sounds like an unvarnished consequentialist appeal. ... The court was unmoved: “We are quite unable to appreciate an argument which suggests that any one has a constitutional right to maliciously defame the memory of a deceased person, though such person’s memory lives only in history, any more than to maliciously defame a living person.” ... So there’s an ample history of criminal prosecutions for defaming the dead. (p. 102) Some of those actions at least flirt with the thought that the dead themselves suffer an injury: but again there’s no reason for the criminal law to work out a considered view on that. And again, modern American courts are adamant that a tort action for defaming the dead is simply a non-starter. ... an apparently insoluble dilemma. ... On one side, the law denies that the action can be brought in the name of the dead person. On the other, if living relatives bring the action, the law denies that they been injured, so they don’t have standing to pursue the matter." ... I begin with the first prong of the dilemma, which goes back far enough in the common law to have an imposing Latin name: actio personalis moritur cum persona, or a personal action dies with the person. ... However we construe modern historians’ hesitation about how accurately actio personalis stated the common law, I’ve been unable to find a single tort case brought by an estate in reaction to the defamation of a dead person. As far as our core problem goes, then, actio personalis seems to have correctly stated the law. ... it meant that a legal action would die upon the death of plaintiff—or defendant. ... Once you wrest free of the hypnotic effect of actio personalis’s Latin and historical pedigree, you can see that it’s as peremptory as de mortuis. Whatever its merits, though, actio personalis explains why legislatures had to intervene to create, say, a tort action for wrongful death—and, perhaps, why the law has conceptualized the injury as one to survivors, not to the dead party. And it explains the crafting of statutes about the right of survival. Even today, some states’ survival statutes lop off defamation and insist that your estate cannot continue to pursue an action if you die after the alleged injury and after suing, but before a trial comes to completion. (p. 109) ... For centuries, then, actio personal is meant that a defamation action would die the moment either party did. The law’s (sic) adamant stance against survival meant, a fortiori, that it was a simple nonstarter to sue on behalf of parties defamed after their deaths. ... That’s the first prong of the dilemma facing would-be litigants. Tort’s Doctrinal Dilemma: The Second Prong - ... actio personalis won’t stop them – but the Palsgraf principle will. (p. 110) The principle is very deep in tort law and reminds us how much that law really is private law. We can put the principle this way: a wrong to one party that causes a harm to a second is not a tort against the second. The Palsgraf principle is named after Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co., probably the single most exemplary modern torts case. ... So Palsgraf sued the railroad. This is a negligence action, so canonically it has four elements. Briefly: Palsgraf had to show that the railroad (1) owed her a duty of care, that it (2) breached that duty, and that it (3) caused her (4) injury. The usual duty for common carriers such as the railroad was one of utmost care. ... But New York’s highest court overturned the judgment. (p. 112) when the defamed dead’s survivors bring tort actions in their own names, they run headlong into the Palsgraf principle. These plaintiffs seem to be arguing that a wrong to the deceased has harmed them. So they don’t prevail. ... Representatives of the dead considering launching defamation actions face the same caution that living people do: the one sure thing is that suing will bring more attention to the alleged defamation. ... And as we saw canvassing figures deploring speaking ill of the dead, the dead can’t speak up to defend themselves against defamation. (p. 210) ... Yes, the

dead’s reputational interests are a proper subset of those of the living. But we want to do more than count how many sorts of interests qualify. We want to think about how weighty they are. Surely the dead’s intrinsic interest in reputation is especially poignant. Your reputation after death is a final settling of accounts, unlike your reputation while alive, ordinarily in flux as you continue to act. When that account is damaged by defamation, it’s all too likely to stay that way. “That will always be there.” Ordinarily, that’s the most pressing injury to reputation a dead person can suffer. It isn’t illusory. Offering a legal remedy for it isn’t a mask behind which we find the face of incentives to the living or good consequences or the public interest or anything like that. Like any other cause of action in tort, it provides a remedy for one party wronged by another. Sometimes what you see is what you get. ... Our reputational interests survive our deaths, but not forever... The skeptic, soft or hard, wants us to be clear-sighted about death. But the skeptic is confused about life: about how some of our interests linger past our deaths and about how central that fact is in our lives. I don’t see any demand of rationality requiring us to blinker our vision or shrink our horizons. If you properly don’t want your will ignored, and if you properly don’t want your corpse desecrated, why resist the claims that you properly don’t want to be defamed after you die, either? and that you’re injured when you are? and that the law should provide succor?" Defaming the Dead, Don Herzog, (Univ. of MI Law School)


This author's comments will generally be in the following format: [Bold black brackets and italicized texts - This author often provides corrective and / or explanatory text as well.] Please also note that this author uses abbreviations to be utilized as much as possible and occasional sentence sequence liberties in order to save space and improve readability.


As a point of information and of interest for new readers and a refresher for those regular readers the "Views expressed to "the public at large” and "of public concern" and "public figures" points at the beginning of each of our posts is derived from the following providential, as well as precedential Ninth Circuit First Amendment journalism case law. Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)


Figure 2. Snippet of Corporate News image Source: YHFR post (7-29-18)

"In defamation cases, the public-figure status of a plaintiff and the public importance of the statement at issue—not the identity of the speaker—provide the First Amendment touchstones." Protecting The Free Speech of Censors: The Crystal Cox Saga. Popehat (Aug. 19, 2014)

Consider now the Ninth Circuit ruling on a First Amendment issue concerning the Crystal Cox vs. Obsidian Finance Group case on the rights of free speech in a "matter of public concern," a key component. The justices' holding vindicated Ms. Cox and allowed her the same free speech protections as journalists, (i.e. when truth survives free speech).

Obsidian Finance Group vs. Crystal Cox US Opinions

Hull, Tim (17 January 2014). "Blogger's Speech Rights Championed in the 9th". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved 2 February 2014.

Courthouse News author Tim Hull encouragingly and notably states: "I think it sets an important precedent that bloggers, for First Amendment purposes, have the same rights as others do, as for example the institutional media does," [Cox's attorney, Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law] said in a phone interview. "There have been plenty of past cases ... that point in that direction, but this is the first time that the 9th Circuit has specifically ruled on this, and this is one of the cases that has focused on bloggers. Most cases have dealt with other nonprofessional media, but this one is particularly the first clear blogging case that I know from the circuit courts." (emphasis added)

9th Circuit Issues a Blogger-Friendly First Amendment Opinion–Obsidian Finance v. Cox (Eric Enterprise)

When Truth Survives Free Speech (NY Times) May require subscription

Blogger gets same speech protections as traditional press: U.S. court

(Reuters USA)

U.S. Court: Bloggers Are Journalists - Even when they're libeling you

(The Atlantic)

Obsidian Finance Group vs Cox Law School Review - Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox Summarized by: Casondra Albrecht (Willamette Law School)

"In defamation suits, the matter at issue must be of public concern and a plaintiff must show that the defendant acted negligently in publishing an assertion of fact, regardless of whether the writer is a member of the institutional media." ( US Courts 9th Circuit Opinions )

"The Ninth Circuit found this case fell in the grey area between the defamation standards for public figures, which require a showing of actual malice, and private defamation suits under a negligence standard pursuant to Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. Declining to base First Amendment protections on whether a speaker is a journalist, the panel held that Gertz is not limited to institutional media defendants, and case law supports not providing institutional media with greater protection than other speakers. The panel also held that the blog post was of public concern ... The panel also affirmed the district court’s summary judgment on the other blog posts, finding them to be pure opinions and lacking an assertion of objective fact." ( US Courts 9th Circuit Opinions )

The Ninth Circuit Holds—Correctly—That a Blogger Has the Same Defamation Protection as a Journalist ( Verdict Justia )

Obsidian Finance Group, LLC and Kevin D. Padrick v. Crystal Cox Decided January 17, 2014 ( Wikipedia )


Test all things; hold fast that which is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NKJV)


We need a few trusted naysayers in our lives, critics who are willing to puncture our protective bubble of self-justifications and yank us back to reality if we veer too far off. This is especially important for people in positions of power.”

(Tavris & Aronson - Mistakes were made but not by Me)


For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? I Corinthians 14:8 (NKJV)

"Hope resides in the future, perspective and wisdom are found by looking to the past" Unknown author

“What is needed is the right to print what one believes to be true, without having to fear bullying or blackmail from any side.” George Orwell (1946)


The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly

(Teddy Roosevelt - Paris - 1910)


Figure 2a. Theodore Roosevelt Man in the Arena quote Source: Etsy

This post is to acknowledge those who dare nobly. Those vulnerable ones willing to scale new heights while putting their reputation on the line. This is a tribute to the individual(s) who enter(s) the arena and though they may stumble and fall, they know the greater service is to follow their passion and purpose. The credit belongs to those who risk defeat and ridicule, and yet are purposeful in their conviction towards success. While they may encounter setbacks, their cause is greater than the critics who disdainfully look down on them. At times, those we expect to be our "chariot of hope" will let us down, but this must never deter us from striving for excellence. And, of course, we have had our share of nefarious Quislings (at least two former proclaimed Hot Shot "Brothers") and severe betrayers of trust too.

Do you often wonder why it is that most of us are only "allowed" to talk about, discuss, and analyze ALL other wildland fire mishaps and fatalities except for the most tragic wildfire to date - that is correct - the June 30, 2014, Yarnell Hill Fire and GMHS debacle? This author and other truth tellers are most often accused of "speaking ill of the dead" or harangued with "let it go ... leave it alone, we all know they messed up" and one of this author's favorites: "there are many lessons from the YH Fire." Oh, and one more favorite is the accusation of being "Conspiracy Theorists" which is itself a fallacious (Ad Hominem) way to attempt to discredit someone and attack the person rather than their argument.

[First off, "Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal act, along with an intent to achieve the agreement's goal. ... Conspiracy applies to both civil and criminal offenses." (Cornell Legal Information Institute) And second, a theory is summarily defined as "a plausible scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena" (Merriam-Webster) " (Merriam-Webster - 13 December 2022) Therefore, once it becomes a fact or reality it is no longer a "theory" per se. So then, accusing, alleging, calling, or labeling someone a "conspiracy theorist" is merely a means to demean and /or discredit someone - someone that has some substantive proof and / or may be "on to something," or at a minimum have some "suggestive evidence" worth pursuing.] The trouble is that once people develop an implicit theory, the confirmation kicks in and they stop seeing evidence that doesn't fit it." (Tavris & Aronson - Mistakes were made but not by me)

Consider this in-depth Education Philosophy and Theory Editorial article (April 5, 2021) on the subject: "Conspiracy theory as heresy" by David Coady - Univ. of Tasmania, Hobart, AU ( This author cites Coady's work at length. It is worth reading his entire article.

"Ever since the term ‘conspiracy theory’ was first popularised (sic) by the philosopher Sir Karl Popper in the 1950s, conspiracy theories have had a bad reputation. To call a theory ‘a conspiracy theory’ is to imply that it is false, and that the people who believe it or who would like to investigate it (i.e. ‘conspiracy theorists’) are irrational. Conspiracy theories are widely held to be not only false and the products of irrationality, but also to be particularly harmful; hence they are widely thought of as a problem, which might be solved, or at least mitigated, through the intervention of social scientists, psychologists, and even philosophers. I think all of this is mistaken. ... Contrary to conventional wisdom we do not have a problem with conspiracy theories; we do, however, have a problem with the term ‘conspiracy theory’ ... The bad reputation of conspiracy theories is puzzling. ... Conspiracy theories, like scientific theories, and virtually any other category of theory, are sometimes true, sometimes false, sometimes believed on rational grounds, sometimes not. ... Although the term ‘conspiracy theory’ lacks any fixed definition, it does serve a fixed function. Its function, like that of the word ‘heresy’ in medieval Europe, is to stigmatise (sic) people with beliefs which conflict with officially sanctioned or orthodox beliefs of the time and place in question."

"Whenever we use the term ‘conspiracy theory’ pejoratively we imply, perhaps unintentionally, that there is something wrong with believing in conspiracies or wanting to investigate whether they’re occurring. This rhetoric silences the victims of real conspiracies, and those who, rightly or wrongly, believe that conspiracies are occurring, and it herds respectable opinion in ways that make it more likely that powerful interests will be able to get away with conspiracies."

"So one bad effect of the current use of this term is that it makes it is easier for conspiracy to thrive at the expense of openness. Another bad effect is that it is an injustice to people whose beliefs are characterised (sic) as conspiracy theories. This is what philosopher Miranda Fricker (2007) calls a ‘testimonial injustice’. When someone asserts that a conspiracy has occurred (especially when powerful people or institutions are involved) that person’s word is inevitably given less credence than it should because of an irrational prejudice produced by the pejorative connotations of these terms."

"If I am right that our current use of the term ‘conspiracy theory’ is comparable to the medieval use of the term ‘heresy’, then the work of psychologists on the subject is comparable to the work of the Inquisition. A body of psychological literature going back to the 1990s purports to give insight into why some people (though not of course the authors themselves or their presumed readers) believe conspiracy theories. Some of the more recent work in this area exhibits intermittent awareness that everyone, or at any rate everyone with a modicum of knowledge of history, current affairs, not to mention much of their own personal life, believe conspiracy theories, and that this is not something that needs any kind of psychological explanation, since it is readily explicable by the fact that many conspiracy theories are both true and well-known to be true. Hence there has been some shift in the psychological literature away from asking why some people believe conspiracy theories to asking why some people suffer from conspiracism or conspiratorial ideation, ..".

In order to establish who does and who does not suffer from conspiracist ideation psychologists select a list of purported conspiracies which a lot of benighted people believe to be real. The more of these that a person is inclined to give credence to, the greater their alleged susceptibility to the supposed vice of conspiracist ideation. Unfortunately for these researchers their lists of purported conspiracies invariably include at least some real conspiracies. ... ""

"The problem with the psychological literature on this subject goes deeper than mere reliance on some poorly chosen examples. If psychologists genuinely want to find out if there is a problem of conspiracist ideation (i.e. excessive willingness to believe in conspiracies), they first need to have an idea of how willing one should be to believe in conspiracies, and that would require them to have a good understanding of how widespread actual conspiracies are. Unfortunately this is not a topic which psychologists are particularly well-qualified to address. If anyone has relevant expertise, they would presumably be historians or political scientists."

"In fact, as we have seen, psychologists tend to be remarkably naïve about this issue. This naivety is dangerous. There are well-documented cases of psychologists being used by the state to persecute people for believing in real conspiracies. ... There are of course many conspiracy theories that are untrue or irrational. However, it does not follow, and it is not true, that they are untrue or irrational because they are conspiracy theories. To dismiss them as conspiracy theories is to dismiss them for the wrong reason and it leads to a variety of harms both to the individuals who are dismissed in this way and to society as a whole. When professional psychologists pathologise (sic) belief in conspiracy theories or conspiratorial ideation by treating them as phenomena standing in need of psychological explanation, they can be engaged in a form of gaslighting: the manipulation of people into doubting their own sanity. I look forward to the day that the we can look back on the pseudo-scientific study of conspiracy theories in the same way we now look back on phrenology."

"I have argued against the current pejorative use of the term ‘conspiracy theory’. What is the alternative? Broadly speaking there are two options. First, we could retain the term, without the pejorative connotations. This is the option that Charles Pigden takes, arguing that a conspiracy theory should be understood simply as a theory according to which a conspiracy has taken place, and that conspiracy theories should be evaluated on their merits, like any other theory. While this would certainly be preferable to the current situation, I don’t think stripping the term of its negative connotations is practically feasible; furthermore it’s not clear to me that the term would serve any useful purpose after it was stripped of its negative connotations. Hence I prefer another option: eliminativism. I have come to think that there is no such thing as a correct, or even a good, definition of this term. I hold that we should stop using, as opposed to mentioning, this term altogether. It appears to do no good, while doing considerable harm. Before the 1950s we got by without it. I see no reason we cannot learn to do so again." (italics original, all other emphasis added)


The trouble is that once people develop an implicit theory, the confirmation kicks in and they stop seeing evidence that doesn't fit it.

Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me - Carol Tarvis, Elliot Aronson (2000)


Consider now another journey through the questionable SAIT-SAIR and their dubious claims of "lessons" to "3. ... work cooperatively with its fire cooperators to develop a wildland fire staff ride for the Yarnell Hill Fire incident. The staff ride is a process of conveying the lessons learned from this incident for future fire leaders." and "recommendations ... 5. ... 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." What are those lessons anyway? The alleged SAIT "investigators" are supposed to "investigate" and then provide you - the "reader" - with a Report (SAIR) having "conclusions" and such, right? Instead, "they" want the "readers" to come to their own "conclusions."

Consider what the alleged "factual" SAIT-SAIR states using the word "reader" nine times (two of them in Appendices A & C) (1) "Part One: Factual & Management Report Narrative The purpose of this narrative is to help readers understand the events occurring around the Granite Mountain IHC on the day of the accident. It is impossible to construct a complete account of the crew’s movement and entrapment because they cannot give their perspectives. Instead, the Team relied on others involved with the fire and with the crew, as well as on data gathered during the investigation, to reconstruct the most accurate account possible. (p. 11); (2) Part Two, the Learning Discussion section, explores multiple concepts and perspectives that may help readers to understand and learn from this accident. The intent is to prompt the wildland fire organization to think about and discuss how they can improve at the individual, team, and organizational levels, thereby improving both safety and resilience in their organizations." (3) The narrative is in present tense to help readers place themselves in the boots of the people involved. ..."; (4) The intent of this Discussion is to inspire readers to think about and to discuss how the wildland fire community can improve at the individual, team, and organizational levels. We do not intend that this Discussion provide readers with finished, concrete answers; instead, we mean it to be a springboard that will prompt readers to think about these issues, to try to understand and learn from the accident, and to find opportunities for improving safety and resilience in their organizations. ..." (p. 45).

Sensemaking Frame

"Sensemaking refers to how people select what seems important to attend to, and how this influences their actions. According to organizational theorist Karl Weick, who popularized the phrase “sensemaking in organizations,” people cannot possibly cope with all of the raw data and information coming at them at a given moment. Instead, what a person pays attention to is a function of identity, past experience, their understanding of their purpose, and other factors. Sensemaking is a very active process whereby people literally “make sense” of the world around them at each moment.

People engage in sensemaking both individually and collectively. In fire, the term situational awareness describes sensemaking: how comprehensively and how accurately are you making sense of the actual fire environment you are working in? Collective sensemaking is about

communication: it is about how crews, IMTs, and host agencies determine potential strategies and tactics, and how they convey and update these during planning meetings, briefings, operations, debriefings, and in after action reviews. Effective risk management communication involves more than simply reporting and transmitting messages. It requires developing effective shared meaning together through dialogue and inquiry. This discussion will frequently return to the concept of collective sensemaking and the role of inquiry in that process.

In a rapidly escalating transition fire, all personnel are simultaneously making sense of two environments at once: the rapidly changing fire environment and the changing organizational environment. At around 1600, an outflow boundary was approaching the Yarnell Hill Fire area

with high winds that would hit the fire from a new direction. The sensemaking part comes in terms of the interpretation that people make of that change in the environment, of indicators that change might occur, and of the organization’s changing response.

It is far easier for us to know how we would make sense of the situation in hindsight than it is to know how the [GMHS] made sense of it. We know that the [GMHS] was actively making sense of their situation, but we also know that their sensemaking and that of others on the Yarnell Hill Fire did not prevent this tragedy. Because other wildland firefighters have similar training, knowledge, and experience to the [GMHS], it is likely that others could “make sense” in a similar manner and suffer a similar outcome. The lessons of the Yarnell Hill Fire are not found in second guessing crew actions in hindsight but in understanding through foresight how things may have made sense at the time. Issues worth discussing for the safety of firefighters on future fires include situational awareness, fireline safety, communications, and incident organization." (p. 46)

"Charge to the Wildland Fire Community - This discussion identifies some issues that the Yarnell Hill Fire prompts the wildland fire community to consider. We introduced issues and questions that readers may find useful as they try to understand this accident and learn from it, but this is only a start. Because sensemaking is ongoing and social, we challenge every wildland fire organization to identify and discuss issues and questions raised in this report that resonate within their organizations, to continue the ongoing process of sensemaking." (p. 60)

[This author, a member of the Project 10 & 18 International, a "wildland fire organization" boldly accepts this "challenge ... to identify and discuss issues and questions raised in this [SAIT] report that resonate within their organizations, to continue the ongoing process of sensemaking."]

The SAIT-SAIR states the word "lessons" three times: (1) 3. The Team recommends that the State of Arizona work cooperatively with its fire cooperators to develop a wildland fire staff ride for the Yarnell Hill Fire incident. The staff ride is a process of conveying the lessons learned from this incident for future fire leaders." (p. 44) (2) "The lessons of the Yarnell Hill Fire are not found in second guessing crew actions in hindsight but in understanding through foresight how things may have made sense at the time. Issues worth discussing for the safety of firefighters on future fires include situational awareness, fireline safety, communications, and incident organization. (p. 46), and (3) Brit Rosso, Center Manager, Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center." (p. 115)


Consider now the plethora of missing documents, information, records, newspaper articles and interviews, videos, audios, and so much more; and those pesky Federal 18 USC criminal violations carrying some very stiff penalties. And how many were actually charged with and found guilty of these Federal charges? NONE! and NONE! Or at least not yet!


"Formerly Unrevealed Public Records Should Change the Account of What Occurred on June 30, 2013." ( - 2020)


The following 18 USC (United States Code) Criminal violations regarding all the "records" alterations, destructions, manipulations, and more of videos, audios, news articles, photos, GPS unit memory cards, YCSO June 30, 2013, Investigation record of human remains, and much more abound. These are appalling, profound, and obviously ILLEGAL! Here are just a few from the Cornell Law School Institute, the US House Code,Justia:

18 U.S. Code § 1519 - Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy

18 U.S. Code § 1924 - Unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material


OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE - 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (2012)

§1519. Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. (Added Pub. L. 107–204, title VIII, §802(a), July 30, 2002, 116 Stat. 800.) (Justia)

Congressional Oversight of Executive Branch Records Preservation (CoEqual website)

And now add to the mix Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud and Racketeering violations as well.

18 U.S. Code § 1341 - Frauds and swindles

18 U.S. Code Chapter 63 - Mail Fraud and Other Fraud Offences

18 U.S. Code § 1961 - Definitions

18 U.S. Code Chapter 96 - Racketeer Influenced and C0rrupt Organizations


Consider now, one of our 2018 YHFR posts titled: "Leave it alone ... you shouldn't go down this road ... let it be." How many times have you heard these same statements from others when mentioning the Yarnell Hill Fire?" (YHFR July 15, 2018). Consider next a retired USFS former El Cariso Hot Shot Supt. and FMO, and Angeles NF Fire Staff, Don Feser Facebook thread with Jay Kurth. The most revealing statements are from former SAIT Team Member Jay Kurth's comment on his opinion on his involvement with the SAIT-SAIR alleged "investigation."

Figure 3. Snippet (blurry) of SAIT-SAIR Appendix H. Team Members and Signature Page. Jay Kurth El Dorado NF FMO is listed sixth. Source: SAIT-SAIR (p. 113)

I, the original article, I screenshot the actual posted comments from the original FaceBook posts and then, for easier reading, I highlight and comment on them below. [Go to the relevant YHFR link above for the actual Figure 1a.-e. FB thread Screenshots]

Figures 1. - 1a. - 1b. - 1c. - 1d, -1e. Facebook thread (Don Feser) WF discussion May 19, 2016. Source: Facebook [These Figures 1. - 1e. are in the original YHFR post]

[Jay Kurth continued attempting to defend himself and justify his alleged "investigation:" - "Does it make you feel better to bash the dead? Nowhere did the report explicitly say all choices were right. As I recall the words were something about no fault. Like a no contest plea. We left it up to firefighters to learn from what was written and provided some decision points where people could try and make sense of the choices that were acted upon and draw their own conclusions. All of you who relish in blame and revile (sic) in your own glory by bashing the system and slandering the review team should consider your own motivation. It certainly does not appear to be learning." (all bold red emphasis in the original YHFR post)

The following May 19, 2016, comments below are those transcribed from the above May 19, 2016, FaceBook post and active thread, however, with my comments in bolded brackets [ ] and in a different italicized font. post of "Forest Service ignored information from hotshot leaders about Granite Mountain’s history of bad decisions."

Don Feser: [discussing above InvestigativeMEDIA article] "For what it's worth and my hunch is, that there's some truth behind it."

Will Silverman: Sad story. "One up." hmmm.

Mike Mercado: "Sadly Don its across the board, the Forest Service puts people in leadership roles when they are not ready or shouldn't be there."

Ron Heinig: "I was involved with a facilitated learning analysis or lessons learned report for a traffic accident that resulted in no injuries but the total loss of an agency vehicle. Interviews were conducted and police reports were made and the details of the accident were obvious and clear. When the FLA was made available it was totally incorrect and the Chief at the time was pursuing his own agenda.and made several assumptions that were false. I complained to the Forest Safety Officer and District Ranger about the FLA but it was never corrected. So in a sense it seems like the FS Safety Journey is just a bunch of BS." (emphasis added)

[It sure seems to me that this person speaks from experience with one of these alternative "investigations" or official means looking into these incidents. It appears to be clear to me from his post that this FLA was inaccurate with the USFS Chief, the highest authority in the USFS, unethically and unprofessionally pursuing his own agenda, while making false assumptions. This gives the impression that complaints to the Forest Safety Officer and District Ranger went unheeded and uncorrected, calling into question the USFS alleged "Safety Journey."]

Don Feser: "Right you are Ron, welcome to the disbeliever's club!"

Ron Heinig: "I guess I became a member when I realized that management was more interested in covering their asses then telling the truth. This was my experience with this incident. When I confronted the Safety Officer about my concerns about the FLA he just looked at me and folded his hands on his desk and said "I'm Sorry". I asked what he was going to do to correct the FLA and he looked at me and said 'I'm Sorry'."(emphasis added)

[To me, this gives the clear impression that upper management cannot be trusted, and that allegedly trusted overhead and supervisors like Safety Officers are complicit in these lies and merely acquiesce to the deception.]

Don Feser: "For these reasons, we got Public Law 107-203 after the Thirtymile Fire in 2001. The U.S. Congress had to step in and pass legislation that mandated an independent USDA Office of the Inspector General investigation of all Forest Service firefighter line of duty deaths. There is a lot of corruption and abuse of power in the Federal Government.."

Don Feser: "I guess I'm still holding out for the truth to be revealed in regards to the Yarnell Fire. Perhaps when those in the know, find the courage to come forward, and give their narrative to a writer like John Maclean, we will finally know what happened."

Franklin Otis Carroll: "Ask Fred Shoeffler for a copy of his PowerPoint on this incident."

Franklin Otis Carroll: "On the other hand Kari Greer said on her two assignments with GM they were among the most squared away crews she's seen...she's seen a lot."

Don Feser: "Franklin, the one thing that resonates with me more than anything else with the GMHS, was their apparent comfort zone with positioning and maneuvering in the green. I spent many years as a IHC firefighter in SoCal and throughout the country, and irregardless of ground or air delivery to the line, we maintained one foot in the burn, and our escape routes and safety zones were into the burn. This was more than just a SOP learned in training, we knew from experience that we survived to fight another day because of this principle. I can't reveal all my information and thoughts in this forum, but I know that Kari Greer is a great photographer, and Fred Shoeffler, whom I've known since the 70's would be my source for IHC tactics."

Franklin Otis Carroll: "I agree. Old School never got old. Do it right or die."

Don Feser: "Now that we're on a roll, who certified the GMHS in 2013, and who investigated the GMHS (firefighter fatality) incident on the 2013 Yarnell Fire? It's the obvious place to start, but findings thus far aren't credible."

[He asks who investigated the GMHS fatality incident on the 2013 YH Fire and then asserts that It's the obvious starting place. Thankfully, he states that at least some, not all, findings thus far are untrustworthy and thus unbelievable.]

Jay Kurth: "It was a learning review, not an investigation. They weren't findings. It was a statement of the story as best as could be put together from the information provided. We wrote specifically about the incident and what could be backed up with proof. It was as factually accurate as could be at the time. It was intentional to not draw suppositions or make bull shit assumptions about Marshes [sic] or Steeds [sic] thinking when it could not be backed up except with hindsight arrogance. Oh not everyone tells the whole story when asked either... (emphasis added)

[My favorite part ... one of the YHF SAIT Team Members admitting to us that that the SAIT was, in fact, "NOT and investigation" with "findings." It was instead "a statement of the story, as factually accurate as could be at the time ... without "hindsight arrogance." As far as the alleged "hindsight arrogance,there is nothing hindsight about it, I allege that it was merely a narrative about a fairly tale of no fault when 19 trained and mostly experienced WFs died when they left their Safety Zone in 'the black,' and traveled through unburned fuels in chutes and chimneys, ultimately deploying their fire shelters in a deadly bowl at the worst possible time during obvious, radically increasing fire behavior."](emphasis added)

[Jay Kurth continued]: "Does it make you feel better to bash the dead? Nowhere did the report explicitly say all choices were right. As I recall the words were something about no fault. Like a no contest plea. We left it up to firefighters to learn from what was written and provided some decision points where people could try and make sense of the choices that were acted upon and draw their own conclusions. All of you who relish in blame and revile (sic) in your own glory by bashing the system and slandering the review team should consider your own motivation. It certainly does not appear to be learning." (emphasis added)

[I allege that my opinions have nothing to do with bashing the dead. Unfortunately, they are dead because they failed to recognize obvious fire weather and fire behavior indicators and failed to recognize, heed, and follow the Basic WF Rules (i.e. 10 & 18 & LCES). And I am allowed this conclusion because your SAIT-SAIR "was written and provided some decision points where people could try and make sense of the choices that were acted upon and draw their own conclusions." There is no relishing in blame, only coming to allowable conclusions based on their faulty actions and fatal outcomes. I feel it is easy and acceptable to "bash the system" and the review team with this type of shoddy, deceptive "investigation" and less-than-factual report writing. My motivation is, always has been, and always will be - THE TRUTH. I guarantee you that my motivation is all about learning - LEARNING THE TRUTH.] "Oh and I have a solid 34, 5 as an IHC Superintendent, reputation for making hard choices and doing things right, including in southern California. Plus I don't pontificate about conspiracy theories and get laughed at behind my back." stated Kurth]

[That is comforting to know that Mr. Kurth carries that much experience under such trying and difficult decision making conditions in various fire regions. However, I take issue with his "conspiracy" accusation. Conspiracy is legally defined as "An agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal act, along with an intent to achieve the agreement's goal. Most U.S. jurisdictions also require an overt act toward furthering the agreement. An overt act is a statutory requirement, not a constitutional one. See Whitfield v. United States, 453 U.S. 209 (2005). The illegal act is the conspiracy's "target offense." Conspiracy generally carries a penalty on its own. In addition, conspiracies allow for derivative liability where conspirators can also be punished for the illegal acts carried out by other members, even if they were not directly involved. Thus, where one or more members of the conspiracy committed illegal acts to further the conspiracy's goals, all members of the conspiracy may be held accountable for those acts." (Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute) (emphasis added) [Therefore, myself and so many others feel that the SAIT falls squarely into that deep, dark cavern.]

[I feel that it's fairly clear to me and so many others, that members of the SAIT and the cabal of literally scores of alleged Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) engaged in conspiracy regarding their "investigation" and creation of their subsequent alleged "factual" report. The SAIT had unfettered access to the full complement of UNREDACTED fire data, audios, photos, videos, and other public records (and not-so-public records), so if myself and others can read between the lines and come to these admissible conclusions, then there is something most definitely wrong with the SAIT investigative process. And there is no theory here, defined as "something suggested as a reasonable explanation for facts, a condition, or an event, esp. a systematic or scientific explanation." (online Cambridge dictionary) On the contrary, myself and others strongly believe that this shameful, malfeasance occurred regarding the YH Fire SAIT-SAIR. Malfeasance is legally defined as "the commission (as by a public official) of a wrongful or unlawful act involving or affecting the performance of one's duties." (online FindLaw Legal Dictionary). I have been laughed at both to my face and behind my back by naysayers and worse for my stance as the eyewitness, revealing the truth about the YH Fire. There are many of us, WFs and civilians alike, that what the SAIT did was wrong and they need to make it right, on this fire and all the others. ITs and a sham have been angered, hurt, and incensed ever since it was released.]

Don Feser: "Then the title of this effort should be changed from 'Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Report,' to 'Learning Review.'"

Jay Kurth: "True statement."