Doug Fir 777
What Are the Underground Honor the Fallen Group Ulterior Motives For Defending the GMHS Decisions?
Author Fred J. Schoeffler and Other Contributing Authors
Restating the post title beyond the limited Wix title allowance: Who Are the Underground Honor the Fallen Group, Couple Dozen Current and Former Federal WFs and FFs, and Others; and What Are Their Underlying Goals and Ulterior Motives for Defending the GMHS Flawed and Ultimately Fatal Decisions and Actions on June 30, 2013?
Figure 1. Screenshot of Heath Cota (then Program Manager of the USFS Apprenticeship program) in the November 2014 WLF LLC Honor the Fallen video screenshot. One of a "couple dozen current and former Federal WFs" defending GMHS decisions and actions and downplaying the tried-and-true Fire Orders and Watch Out Situations. Source: YouTube, WLF LLC
Figure 1a. Screenshot of WLF LLC Honor the Fallen video of Curtis Heaton, former Prescott Hot Shot and Prescott NF Fire Staff, and current USFS NIMO OPS Chief, in the November 2014 WLF LLC Honor the Fallen video. One of a "couple dozen current and former Federal WFs" defending GMHS decisions and actions and stating that it takes more than an individual or unit to make a decision. Source: YouTube, WLF LLC
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Abbreviations used: Wildland Firefighters (WFs) - Firefighters (FFs).
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" Unkown 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)
Figure 1b. WLF LLC Honor the Fallen video of a January 2014 YH Fire site visit and their views of the June 30, 2013, YH Fire and GMHS debacle. Source: YouTube, WLF LLC
Orwell's quote (above) does a fairly decent job of addressing the issue. The authors will do their level best to post both sides of the argument. The WLF LLC and the Honor the Fallen Group (HTF) have published their side in several articles, videos, and forums, and now the YHFR author and others will publish their side in response to the HTF Group. This post begins with excerpts from the January 2014 Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (WLF LLC) Honor the Fallen video disingenuously claiming: "This video was captured on site of the Yarnell Hill Fire in January 2014. The participants spent the day walking the ground and discussing the challenges facing the wildland fire service as a whole. (emphasis added)
In reality, the authors and others confidently allege that this WLF LLC - in lockstep - with the Honor the Fallen Group is coyly addressing their own narrow and sharply poignant agenda to support or validate the SAIT-SAIR conclusion; all the while disingenuously weasel-wording it to sound more vicarious - like a kinder, gentler surrogate - for all of us within what they consider to be the unworthy, lesser, and unsanctified non-vanguard ilk. You will readily notice how complex the HTF Group believes the wildland fire environment has become and therefore, unmanageable, by those on the firelines.
Because of all that we can very likely expect more of what the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters researcher Diane Vaughan coined as the now well-known and adopted phrase - "Normalization of Deviance." "Even when the lessons are learned, negative patterns can still repeat. The process and mechanisms behind the normalization of deviance make incremental change hard to detect until it’s too late. Change occurs gradually, the signs of a new and possibly harmful direction occurring one at a time, injected into daily routines that obfuscate the developing pattern. Moreover, external forces are often beyond a single organization’s ability to control." (emphasis added) Are the HTF covering for the years of Prescott FD dodges and ignored signs of impending trouble? The ones obvious to the other HS Crews and WFs and FFs that almost all have GMHS anecdotes.
Vaughan described it in this valuable human factors collection by Farjoun and Starbuck (2005) titled "Organization at the Limits" and she also wrote quite a lot on the notions of "incomplete learning processes" and "incomplete lessons learned." And thus within the wildland fire realm, these have led us to the inevitable result of more wildland fire mishaps and tragedies. Vaughan proposed an "Exploratory Response Mode" for delving into concerns. "Exploration starts with a deliberate mindset shift – a conscious attempt to alter the spontaneous belief that current views capture reality accurately in favor of the more productive (and accurate) belief that current theories are incomplete (Edmondson,  2003a; Smith, 1992). The desired mindset embraces ambiguity and openly acknowledges gaps in knowledge. In an exploratory response mode, managers engage in experimentation and actively seek out dissent rather than encouraging conformity." (emphasis added) Something the Prescott FD in general and the GMHS, in particular, failed to heed or quell - Groupthink.
In contrast, consider what Brit Rosso, the former NPS Arrowhead Hot Shot Supt. and WLF LLC Center Manager (April 2018) encourages us to do in his dialogue and short semi-speech in the WFSTAR Weather Channel video (Otter app PDF) transcript containing keywords below in Figure 1c.
Figure 1c. Snippet of Brit Rosso, former WLF LLC Center Manager (April 2018)Otter app transcript of him discussing the importance of talking about the YH Fire to heal and to learn lessons from it. Source: Weather Channel, WFSTAR, NWCG, YouTube, Otter
Consider now, the WFSTAR, NWCG, Yarnell Fire Weather Channel video (April 5, 2018) containing Rosso, John Dougherty, Eyewitness Hikers Collura and Gilligan, Fire Weather meteorologists, GMHS family members, Stephen Pyne, and others. Contains some impressive fire behavior clips. (18:48 viewing time)
Figure 1d. Brit Rosso, former WLF LLC Center Manager (April 2018) begins discussing the importance of talking about the YH Fire and then several others add to the storyline, including GMHS family, friends, and loved ones. Source: Weather Channel, WFSTAR, NWCG, YouTube
It is important to endeavor toward writing as clear and understandable as possible for the general public, WFs, FFs, and especially to the family, friends, and loved ones of the GMHS. Of course, this includes the skeptics within the latter category in the Underground Honor the Fallen Group. The HTF Group obviously struggles with knowing - and ultimately accepting - the truth about what really happened and why, yet they are working in concert to discredit those that wholeheartedly support the tried-and-true Rules of Engagement. The HTF Group has chosen to censor the truth from what is and has been obvious to any honest observer of the June 30, 2013, tragedy history. Instead, the authors allege, that the HTF and their ilk, are on a different path; the unethical machination one-way route of deception to come to the untenable conclusion that "We could see ourselves making the same decision they’d made."
Mission Centers Solutions (MCS) provides doctrine and support for developing a mission-driven operating culture; assists clients with their leader development and legacy planning needs; provides planning, education, and implementation tools to improve cultural advancement; offers operational philosophies and tools that can speed response and improve adaptiveness; and supports clients with capturing and retaining lessons learned or best practices.
MCS states that their clients, which include the Federal Wildland Fire agencies, "operate at the point of the spear." MCS Army Ranger veteran Mark Smith describes the HTF Group in his "Honor The Fallen Essay - The Big Lie." and wrote: "Coalescing in the wake of the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire and loss of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, HTF is a collection of roughly 30 “seekers” within the wildland fire community. Hose‐draggers, fire directors, dirt diggers, academics, “Ollies”, agency administrators, ICs, FMOs ... a diverse cross section is an understatement. This essay benefits from their critical eyes and input." (emphasis added)
Smith goes on to correctly and ethically state: "The truth is a worthy anchor point to begin to honor both the living and the fallen. ... Our effort was perceived as having rendered due honor and respect to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.”
At this juncture, it is fair to ask - Did the HTF Group perceive it themselves as "having rendered due honor and respect to the GMHS? Or was it from the alleged "Factual" SAIT-SAIR? Here Smith recounts a noble, worthwhile goal statement by one of the HTF Group founders: "Our end state is that the group’s efforts became a catalyst for continued cultural introspection into how human factors affect our decisions. The engagement generates a watershed event from the fire, having provoked thought, dialogue, questions and explorations in all corners of the wildland fire community. Yarnell Hill leads to a stronger, more self‐aware and more resilient wildland fire culture." (emphasis added)
Because so many interested individuals are starving for honest, accurate information about the YH Fire and GMHS tragedy, the HTF Group's efforts will definitely become "a catalyst for continued cultural introspection into how human factors affect our decisions ... having provoked thought, dialogue, questions and explorations in all corners of the wildland fire community." (emphasis added) However - if and only if - the truth (and lies) are revealed and accepted will the "Yarnell Hill [Fire lead] to a stronger, more self‐aware and more resilient wildland fire culture." (emphasis added) Otherwise, we will have the same "incomplete lessons."
Moreover, this author and others allege that this HTF Group participated in censoring the truth. They acted in concert with each other to validate what the GMHS did to vindicate them. And it appears that for all the world that they did so to sway the WFs and FFs and the general public into believing the lies surrounding the YH Fire and GMHS debacle. There needs to be some form of accountability, however, official accountability seems unlikely at times because they are a quasi-Government entity, albeit "unofficial." So then, the accountability will come in the so-called "Court of Public Opinion" via this YHFR website. At the very least, it should now be obvious to any honest observer that the HTF Group bent over backward to keep the truth about the YH Fire and GMHS debacle from coming to light,
This post is also derived, in part, from our 2022 AHFE paper titled "How was it possible to do everything right and yet 19 Prescott Fire Department Firefighters died in one fell swoop on June 30, 2013?" That paper is for the upcoming 2022 Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics Conference in Session 204 New Perspectives on Human Decision Making and Errors. The sources and references utilized for this post are (as much as possible) embedded as a link from the identified sources within this Yarnell Hill Fire Revelations (YHFR) post text. The anticipated Rules of Engagement and Entrapment Avoidance will be addressed below.
“We could see ourselves making the same decision they’d made”
Another WLF LLC Honor the Fallen source by Travis Dotson is the October 23, 2018, article by the same title within their website Dotson asks: "How exactly do we Honor the Fallen?" And then responds: "It’s a tough question because it has a thousand right answers. One of the most important ways to honor is to learn. We are always in danger of squandering the bitter opportunity that tragedy affords us." (emphasis added) We must learn from all of the tragedies in all fields!
Dotson continues: "This video is a glimpse of what so many of us struggled with in the aftermath of the Yarnell Hill Fire. This is just a few fire folks walking the ground in January 2014 and grappling with how to advance our culture in the aftermath of devastation. Making sense of bad outcomes is difficult, often impossible. But nobody wants the pain to be without benefit. Suffering without growth is tragic." (emphasis added)
Dotson recommends the following: "Let’s choose growth. One way to grow is to challenge long held beliefs. The window for genuine inquiry opens wide after disorienting circumstances – when we are shaken we struggle to re-balance. For many the re-balance means doubling down on long held beliefs, for others it requires a heart wrenching letting go of previous convictions." (emphasis added)
"What are some of your long held beliefs?
"Are you willing to question them?
"Are you willing to consider a new perspective?
"And after all that, are you willing to actually alter your actions?
"Growth is difficult."
Consider now our responses to HTF Dotson's comments above about "your long held beliefs."
"One of the most important ways to honor is to learn, Agreed in part, however, it is most important to learn complete lessons rather than those that fit the WLF LLC agenda supporting the YH Fire SAIT-SAIR.
"This video is a glimpse of what so many of us struggled with in the aftermath of the Yarnell Hill Fire. If it is just "a glimpse" then where is the rest of the video?
" ... grappling with how to advance our culture in the aftermath of devastation." It appears that the Honor the Fallen Group has a fairly established ulterior direction and message based on comments in other and similar forums on this subject.
" ... the way to grow is to challenge long held beliefs." What the WLF LLC is asking us to challenge are the long-held beliefs that are effective well established, successful, tried-and-true Rules of Engagement, i.e. Fire Orders, Watch Out Situations, LCES, etc. They are alluding to - and outright claiming - that they are ineffective. And that we need to have and make "luck decisions" and then conclude it all with "it worked until it didn't" No kidding? That fits squarely into the Bad Decisions With Good Outcomes category in Figure 5. (below).
The authors contend that in the January 2014 WF LLC HTF video, they chose this particular HTF individual in this particular USFS position, in order to basically sum it all up in some nice, convenient closing quotes. This was no mere coincidence. And this is particularly telling and holds a lot of weight because he specifically attacks the Rules of Engagement in order to support the SAIT-SAIR conclusion and their own HTF conclusion - “We could see ourselves making the same decision they’d made.” According to former USFS Apprenticeship Program Director Heath Cota: "And the truth is that we try to put it into these little boxes and these rules of the 10 and 18s that cannot ... they're not going to keep us safe. It's been proven time and time again. We can't follow our own rule ... you know, these rules, whatever they are... this environment is way too complex. Ah, we're really lucky we do a good job at it. And I think that to me, the luck, the whole luck decision conversation, how often is it luck? ... The gravity of walking down that [is] where it hit me ... Looking down, seeing how close it looks, ... how far it is. Scurrying through that is where it hit home for me. ... we can all see the path of the friction, the uncertainty, the fluidity in the environment, and how it just shapes it ... where [it] is absolutely feasible and possible. Like ... at that time. It was good until it wasn’t” Mr. Cota definitely does a good job revealing the manipulated collective intent for the Honor the Fallen Group. In fact, this author will state that he is the quintessential HTF model for that. This is the guy that was in charge of training all the new up-and-coming USFS career appointment employees. A very dangerous sobering thought.
Posted on our December 11, 2019, YHFR website at "Part 1 of 5 - Underneath every simple, obvious story about ‘human error,’ there is a deeper, more complex story - a story about the system in which people work. Will these formerly unrevealed public records change the account of what occurred on June 30, 2013?": "Instructors at [the] National USFS Wildland Fire Apprenticeship Academies, various quasi-private / municipal Wildfire Training Academies, and local USFS Ranger Districts were required to cite and utilize, and therefore, follow only the SAIT-SAIR "conclusions" and what is presented in the associated YH Fire SAIT PowerPoint and "briefing video." In addition, "USFS Apprenticeship Instructors were required to provide lesson plans for 'Regional Office and Washington Office approval' if they were to discuss anything at all about the Yarnell Hill Fire."
Further clarifying - the above incident took place during an S-290 Extreme Fire Behavior module by a career USFS supervisor-instructor, specifically discussing YH Fire anecdotes by an Engine Crewmember that was directly involved in the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor firing operation. The USFS supervisor-instructor recounted that there were well over a hundred students present during that session. Ask your friends and coworkers about this who may have been present. After the S-290 session, the Apprenticeship Program Manager sternly admonished the S-290 Instructor to 'never discuss the YH Fire or the GMHS without prior Regional Office or Washington Office approval.'
"The 10 [Fire Orders] and 18s [Watch Out Situations] that cannot ... they're not going to keep us safe"
"For many, the re-balance means doubling down on long held beliefs," This is a coy one - almost disingenuous - using the subtle Fallacy of Equivocation, i.e., a deliberate use of vague or ambiguous language, with the intent of deceiving others or avoiding commitment to a specific stance, in this instance the "long held beliefs" phrase. Whose "long held beliefs" are they referring to - the GMHS or the rest of the wildland fire community? In addition, the phrase "double down" means to "strengthen one's commitment to a particular strategy or course of action, typically one that is potentially risky. Equivocation is the deliberate use of vague or ambiguous language, with the intent of deceiving others or avoiding commitment to a specific stance.
In other words, it is fair to ask if HTF Dotson is referring to the Honor the Fallen long held beliefs? Or is he referring to the long held beliefs of those of us who truly value those regarding the tried-and-true, time- and battle-tested Rules of Engagement? That is most intentional - anything but coincidental.
The same logic applies in reviewing and answering the following questions that they are asking: ( 1) "What are some of your long held beliefs?; (2) "Are you willing to question them?; (3) "Are you willing to consider a new perspective? (4) "And after all that, are you willing to actually alter your actions?
"Growth is difficult." Sometimes. But only if you allow that mindest.
One of the key sources for our 2022 AHFE paper, and this post, is from an October 30, 2018, Outside magazine article titled: What We Learned from the Yarnell Hill Fire Deaths, and in it, author Kyle Dickman exposes a lot about this Honor the Fallen Group: “In January 2014, 11 veteran firefighters from the nation’s biggest fire agencies—the vanguard of fire, as they were described to me—met in Yarnell. They hiked along the route the hotshots had likely taken from the ridge into the canyon where the 19 died seven months earlier. They arrived at a startling conclusion. 'We could see ourselves making the same decision they’d made,' said Travis Dotson, a member of the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, a federally funded organization that helps firefighters improve their performance. Around the time of the field trip, Dotson and others formed an underground group called Honor the Fallen." (emphasis added)
This is indeed, a startling conclusion, explained further below. And furthermore to state: "We could see ourselves making the same decision they’d made" means that the HTF is clearly justifying and supporting the bogus SAIT-SAIR conclusion of "no indications of negligence, reckless actions, policy, or procedure." And why the GMHS really died, even though each and every one of the HTF Group consisting of "a collection of roughly30 “seekers” within the wildland fire community. Hose‐draggers, fire directors, dirt diggers, academics, “Ollies”, agency administrators, ICs, FMOs ... a diverse cross section is an understatement ... tried to spark an age of enlightenment." All of these men know that is patently false.
"Dotson and others formed an underground group called Honor the Fallen."
Reflect on the word "Underground" for a moment - What comes to mind as a common citizen, WF, or FF when you hear or read that statement about an underground group? Dickman was definitely in concert, when he when he used that specific word. Consider now a couple of definitions of the word "underground" from a few common, reliable sources. The Merriam-Webster dictionary: "an unofficial, unsanctioned, or illegal but informal movement or group, especially: a usually avant-garde group or movement that functions outside the establishment." Or the more benign and kinder, gentler definition from the Britannica dictionary: "of, relating to, or produced in a social and artistic world that is different and separate from the main part of society." Another word that appears quite often is "clandestine." Nonetheless, the term is questionable. A WF familiar with the Honor the Fallen Group members referred to them as an “unofficial Agency effort."
Dickman continues about the HTF Group: "Included in its couple dozen members were some of the highest-ranking firefighters from the various agencies in the wildland fire business: the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Park Service. Their goal was to make sure [the] Yarnell Hill [Fire], the most publicized event in wildland firefighting history, forced some much-needed changes to the job’s outdated culture. Three years later, they tried to spark “an age of enlightenment” in wildland fire. As Dotson distilled the shift in mindset, “Before Yarnell, it was about getting better at fighting fire. After, it’s been about getting better at accepting death.” Dickman's subtitle was revealing and actually pretty accurate: "One of the worst tragedies in the history of firefighting prompted little change to a culture that regularly puts young lives at risk. A few seasoned veterans are working to fix that." Had it been truly a Federal Fire (and not just paid for by the Federal USDA USFS), it's fair to say that there would have been some form of an overly constrictive YH Fire Abatement Monitoring or Hazard Mitigation Plan similar to the fatal Thirty-Mile Fire, Cramer Fire, or many others; there very likely would have been no more firefighting during active or potential thunderstorms; there would be GPS technology in as many devices as possible; and the Fire Orders and Watch Out Situations would be, at a minimum, watered down or even rewritten; and much more.
"Before Yarnell, it was about getting better at fighting fire.
After, it’s been about getting better at accepting death."
"From the outset, the members of Honor the Fallen understood that Yarnell was unlikely to result in any official changes to the outdated culture. A few seasoned veterans are working to fix that. Their goal was to make sure [the YH Fire] forced some much-needed changes to the job's outdated culture."
Better about accepting death? Is this really the goal? How about staying with the original "getting better at fighting fire" and working on getting better at following the Rules of Engagement for Entrapment Avoidance? "Their goal was to make sure ... forced some much-needed changes to the job’s outdated culture." And you will clearly see the fruits of their labor in the statements they make outright defending what the GMHS did.
Dickman continues with self-appointed YH Fire and GMHS debacle alleged "Lead Investigator" Brad Mayhew attempting to justify his alleged complicity in all this: "For one thing, Mayhew’s investigation was of a new wave that borrowed from the military’s tradition: They tried to understand what the firefighters knew in the moment rather than seeking fault in behavior. Instead of chasing “the instant gratification of new rules,” as Mayhew put it, they put the onus of making change on the fire agencies at large. But the approach seemed to fall flat. Granite Mountain was the rare unit operated by a municipality, and the big wildland firefighting agencies did all they could to publicly distance themselves from a tragedy that wasn’t their own. “We treated this whole thing different because Granite Mountain had a different color blood,” according to Dotson. (emphasis added)
In support of this ruse, Dickman suggested: "Mayhew’s investigation was of a new wave that borrowed from the military’s tradition: They tried to understand what the firefighters knew in the moment rather than seeking fault in behavior." The "new wave" was the fact that it was a "Learning Review" based on a Facebook thread by another alleged YH Fire "Investigator" discussing the YH Fire and SAIT-SAIR credibility.
There were - and still are - several. The Tucson, AZ Northwest FD Ironwood Hot Shots existed until their wimpy City Council decided to cancel them after the YH Fire. And there are several in Southern California, i.e. Rio Bravo HS was until 2020 when their Board of Supervisors "defunded" them; LA County Hot Shots, ( What does Dotson mean by "we"? Does he mean the USFS or the HTF Group ... or both. And what does he mean by "a different color blood"?
From his own Fireline Factors website, Mayhew posts: Brad Mayhew served as Lead Investigator on the Interagency Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Team (2013) and wrote the Yarnell Hill Fire Case Study (2014). (emphasis original) You will quickly note that Mayhew reminds all of us about his YH Fire and GMHS roles and how is profiting financially from all this - paid for by the taxpayers.
"He has led and consulted on investigations nationwide and has a master’s degree in Human Factors."
"I am excited to bring you the Risk Communication Protocols (RCP) training guide!
"I look forward to hearing from you on how you answered the 4 Questions, and how the RCPs worked for you! -Brad"
And profiting from the tragedy!
Figure 2. Snippet of Mayhew RCP publication Source: Mayhew
“We treated this whole thing different because Granite Mountain had a different color blood”
Figure 3. WLF LLC Analyst Travis Dotson, former Hot Shot and Smokejumper. in the November 2014 WLF LLC Honor the Fallen video screenshot. One of a "couple dozen current and former Federal WFs" defending GMHS decisions and actions Source: YouTube, WLFLLC
In the HTF video, Dotson is noticeably squirming, struggling with all this as he stated: “… Everything about this fire, the communication, the situation with the weather, the topography, the Resources, the number of resources, lack of resources; All that stuff is normal, There's nothing here that wasn't normal, On the next step to that is that - if that stuff’s all normal - including the decisions - which I say that they are, then this outcome is normal, and I don’t think we’re willing to make that leap but that’s ... that’s what logically ... that’s where that goes to and I hate that, but I think that’s what’s been staring us in the face for years - and we’re not, we’re not willing to go there."
At this point, Dotson basically admits to the outcome stating that it had been "staring us in the face for years - and ... we’re not willing to go there." "Not willing to go there"? Dotson and then Heaton have just told us their true intent. Unsurprisingly, NIMO Heaton immediately responds to Dotson's statement: "It's scary, you've got ten of us in violent agreement." So then, almost half of the "couple dozen" in the HTF Group are in "violent agreement"?
This author originally thought that phrase had a more aggressive meaning, like eventually leading to fisticuffs. However, one source defines those "violent agreement" times when you and someone else are passionately arguing about something and it turns out that you're basically on the same side of the issue. And you've been arguing with this person because you want to be right. Another source basically mirrored that definition, with a third source in alignment and adding: "we should step back and take note of what we agree upon."
"That stuff's all normal ... and that’s what’s been staring us in the face for years - and we’re not, we’re not willing to go there."
"It's scary, you've got ten of us in violent agreement”
Figure 3a. Steve Gage, former USFS, DHS, and FEMA, in the November 2014 WLF LLC Honor the Fallen video screenshot. One of a "couple dozen current and former Federal WFs" defending GMHS decisions and actions Source: YouTube, WLFLLC
Gage, obviously dazed and confused, says: "... you know when we were standing up there you know and coming back down my perception of what I envisioned was going on in my mind’s eye was "I’d have been right there, I’d have been coming down this road. I’d have been trying to fall off there and find a good sweet spot to get to, and that you know that whole concept of but for the Grace of God. You know how many times have … I been know that close and just barely got by and Mike’s about minutes you know cuz I was a minute ahead of it I was a minute behind it, whatever that was and you know my reality sometimes is I don’t understand why this didn’t happen more often, because the enemy, the force of nature that we’re dealing with is not as predictable as we think it is. We think we know it but we truly don’t.”
HTF Gage babbles on and admits some pretty unbelievable "my reality" experiences that even he is unsure what it was. How is it that: "I was a minute ahead of it I was a minute behind it, whatever that was and you know my reality sometimes is I don’t understand why this didn’t happen more often," Gage is definitely showing signs of having drunk the YHF and GMHS debacle Kool-Aid, engaging in what is known as the "Abilene Paradox and the Inability to Manage Agreement," It also appears that Mr. Gage is definitely lacking in independent thought, being the consummate "Team Player, Go Along to Get Along, and Don't Rock the Boat" compliant individual.
"I’d have been right there, I’d have been coming down this road. ... You know how many times … I been ... know that close and just barely got by and ... you know cuz I was a minute ahead of it I was a minute behind it, whatever that was ..."
Figure 3b. USFS Organization Learning Ambassador, Former Baker River HS, Smokejumper, USFWS, Matthew Carrol, in the November 2014 WLF LLC Honor the Fallen video screenshot. One of a "couple dozen current and former Federal WFs" defending GMHS decisions and actions. Source: YouTube, WLFLLC
Carrol supports the HTF mindset which justifies and validates the GMHS decisions and outcomes and states: "That this force of nature, the fire environment is so complex that no matter what we throw at it process-wise or intelligence-wise or leadership-wise that it will always outpace us, and I don’t know, I don’t (sic) that then backs us up to a conversation with the public we serve, it backs us up to a conversation with [the Agency we’re part of] and it’s a bad uncomfortable conversation scripted over a 100 plus years.”
Dickman continues: "Historically, fire agencies responded to fatalities with investigations that sought to understand what happened. Since 1990, when a blaze killed six firefighters on an inmate crew, those investigations seemed intent on proving that dead firefighters broke rules. ... Traditionally, the agencies used the investigators’ conclusions to develop new learning tools, scientific labs, and, mostly, rules. Fatality fires spawned the '18 Watch-Out Situations,' the 'Ten Standard Firefighting Orders,' and the ever-growing 118-page Incident Response Pocket Guide that most firefighters keep in their pockets today. ... Over time, the relationship between tragedy and rulemaking sewed into the culture the belief that firefighters die only when they break rules." (emphasis added)
It is correct that "[h]istorically, those investigations seemed intent on proving that dead firefighters broke rules." However, they did, in fact, break the rules, i.e. Fire Orders. You can make good decisions based on those "Rules" and have a good outcome and you did a "good job." However, if you make a bad decision and have a bad outcome then it's not your fault? Right out of the Facilitated Learning Analisis (FLA) playbook of "it's just an accident. No blame. No fault." What BS! You cannot have it both ways! This author challenges you to find anyone blamed or at fault for their decisions when mishaps or tragedies occurred.
They even have a Learning From Unintended Consequences training manual for this course of action and training cadre and workshops as well.
In other words, there has never been a wildfire where they followed all the rules and ended up entrapped, deploying a fire shelter, or being killed. It is also true that "Traditionally, the agencies used the investigators’ conclusions to develop new learning tools, ... mostly, rules" is a true statement along with "Fatality fires spawned the '18 Watch-Out Situations,' the 'Ten Standard Firefighting Orders," i.e. the 1957 Task Force to prevent wildfire deaths. Quoting from the report: "This 1957 report was submitted to the Chief of the Forest Service by a task force including W.R. Moore, V.A. Parker, M. Countryman, L.K. Mays, and A.W. Greeley. This report marks the origin of the 10 & 18 and of the research into and use of fire behavior knowledge in Wildland firefighting." (emphasis added)
And continuing on this Slippery Slope, there is the inaccurate or even false claim that "the ever-growing 118-page Incident Response Pocket Guide" was the result of fatality fires. Surely, fatality fires have had some driving influence, however, it was much less dramatic and actually more practical. It was patterned after the various professional field notebooks. It included the Fire Orders and Watch Out Situations for sure. Former USFS Safety and Health and Training Coordinator Jim Cook had a lot of influence on this project. Quoting from Northing and Easting (2021): "In the olden days (like, up until the 1980s) field notebooks were a staple of the surveying, engineering, geology, and natural sciences disciplines. If you did any field work it got recorded for posterity in a field notebook. Taking and maintaining field notes was not just an art, it was often a legal requirement, particularly in the surveying field; the entries that surveyors made in their field notebooks constituted the legal record of a survey, and those notebooks often were turned in at the completion of a project to become part of the permanent record." The military also had some influence. (emphasis added)
Dickman continues: "Yarnell did prompt a modest update to the fire shelter, the flimsy aluminum heat shields the hotshots had died under, and the development of a new phone app that helps firefighters get weather updates in real time. But as Honor the Fallen predicted, it led to no significant policy changes." (emphasis added) The fire shelter update is a false cause fallacy and "feel good" approach because "flimsy" fire shelters were not the cause of their deaths. There will never be a fire shelter light enough for a WF or FF to carry on the firelines able to withstand the temperatures those GMHS endured. The "phone app for real time weather updates is another fallacy. Anyone can accomplish those tasks on any cell phone or hand-held device.
Dickman continues with his covering for the alleged "Lead Investigator": "Back on the ridgetop, Mayhew plays the video MacKenzie shot here five years ago. There’s a moment where the video jumps that looks like an edit. 'People seized on that and said we’d doctored the clip,' says Mayhew, shaking his head. 'They discounted the entire investigation because they thought they’d caught us in a lie.' In fact, it was two separate but complete clips edited into one. Many firefighters don’t trust investigations. History gave them good reasons. 'That’s because for a long time they went out and created reasons to blame workers' Mayhew says. As an independent contractor, he has made investigating fireline accidents his career. The team’s reaction to Mayhew’s investigation was particularly strong. He thinks that’s because their investigation did what few others have before. They acknowledged that firefighting is high risk and people sometimes die doing it. In the final report, they didn’t cast blame, which made it harder to learn from the deaths and angered many people." (emphasis added)
This author alleges that the paragraph above is a fairly blatant effort at covering up for what actually occurred with almost all of the GMHS electronic devices. To reveal these fraudulent acts by the USFS and AZ State Forestry, consider now the methodical accurate, detailed works of the unassuming IM Wants ToKnowTheTruth (WTKTT) YouTube videos with Google Earth overlays and other diagnostic features; and his marvelous analytical works revealing what Mayhew described as "they thought they’d caught us in a lie." The truth be told Mayhew, they did catch you in a lie! These WTKTT YouTube videos also include all the GMHS cell phone and movie camera videos located at the bottom. These are the specific ones referred to. The classic MacKenzie one is really two 9-second clips 43-seconds apart! Where are the other 43-seconds Mayhew?
( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChknok8ZdSi8mPJ9nAK2L7A/videos )
Dickman continues: "Around the time that Mayhew’s investigation was released, in the fall of 2013, online discussion boards cropped up that attracted fire professionals and hobbyists. One blog [InvestigativeMEDIA] still active today has tens of thousands of comments. Too many of them are overseasoned with vitriol or dedicated to conspiracy theories—somebody ordered the men to leave the ridge; a backfire sparked by a homeowner killed the crew; the hotshots were amateurs. These commenters often accuse Mayhew of being a conspirator in a government coverup. He calls the accusation patently false. But what bothers him is that some of those ideas have infected the fire culture, and he’s constantly having to correct dangerous misperceptions. 'It’s comforting to think, ‘I never would have done that. I’m not like them,’” says Mayhew, who was a hotshot and still works as a firefighter. 'They were just firefighters, and we’re just firefighters.'” Can the truth actually adversely "infect the fire culture" in a negative way? NO! Only to those naysayers and Kool-Aid Drinkers adversely affected by the truth itself.
Investigative journalist John Dougherty's InvestigativeMEDIA with a total of 31 Chapters and additional stories, is definitely a credible source to be reckoned with, along with our Yarnell Hill Fire Revelations website, both recognized as GMHS Staff Ride Information Sources, notwithstanding some of the comments Mayhew makes attempting to discredit them.
“That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies; That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright; But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.” Alfred Lord Tennyson
According to Mayhew, “The body of the report gives several examples of communication which were difficult to verify.” (InvestigativeMEDIA WTKTT - June 14, 2018)
Discrediting Mayhew, consider now text from IM where WTKTT is responding to "Woodsman" about Mayhew's false statements made during the May 2016 Southern California Foresters and Fire Wardens Conference with historical fiction author John MacClean and his alleged "Investigator" Holly Neil: "Add a few well-placed “ALMOST no information's and “team cannot VERIFY's ( without even bothering to explain what, if anything, was ever DONE to even TRY and ‘Verify’ anything ) and you are ‘good to go’… even 5 ( 10?, 15? ) years later… when you need to ‘interrupt’ someone trying to give a presentation.
"I also wonder about this head-scratching statement that came out of SAIT investigator Brad Mayhew’s mouth when he was ‘interrupting’ author John Maclean’s presentation…
“The body of the report gives several examples of communication which were difficult to verify.”
"I just re-read the entire SAIR and I have no idea what he even thinks he is referring to there.
"The ONLY places in the entire SAIR where the word ‘verify’ is ever used is in association with the ’33 minute gap’ statements, and 1 more time on PDF page 86 when they said they used satellite-based heat imagery to help ‘verify’ fire locations at various times.
"Absolutely nothing about any specific ‘communications’ that were ‘hard to verify’. Brad Mayhew then says ( directly to John Maclean on the stage )…
“That’s not true, man. ( pause ) "You know what? ( pause ) "I was on that investigation team. In fact, I was a lead investigator. "That’s not what our report says. "I don’t appreciate it.” (emphasis added)
So then Mayhew, which is it? You now you say you were "a lead investigator."
Dickman continues: "Mayhew and I left the overlook and began hiking when the sun slipped below the Weaver Mountains and the peaks’ shadows stretched into the valley below. We followed the thin road that Granite Mountain took to their deaths. It was steep and rutted, and we both kicked rocks that tumbled downhill. We soon reached the point where the hotshots opted to drop off the ridge, through the canyon, and toward the ranch. We stood there for a moment. A turkey vulture rotated overhead. 'Doesn’t it look like it’s right there?' Mayhew asked of the ranch we could see at the head of the canyon. 'Like you could be there in five minutes?'” (emphasis added)
Dickman continues: "The uncertainty behind what drove those men, in view of that terrifying fire, to drop into a wickedly steep box canyon has generated the conspiracies that still haunt wildland firefighting today. In hindsight, it’s a hard decision to fathom. For his part, Mayhew tries to stay out of the swirling theories. He thinks the way to learn from Yarnell is to ask firefighters to put themselves in Granite Mountain’s boots and ask what could have lured them to make the same choice. On this point, he’s bullish. “They were trying to save lives,” Mayhew says. “They knew people were threatened down there. That must have weighed on them.”(emphasis added)
At this point, with Mayhew doing his best to justify the GMHS bad decisions and the SAIT-SAIR, to better understand Mayhew's assertions above, please consider these two videos and listen intently to PFD Wildland BC Willis (divulge) explain what is known and accepted as the "Prescott Way" of wildland firefighting. Hopefully, this will help you better comprehend why the PFD GMHS did what they did and why they died. Willis goes out of his way to justify everything the GMHS did and to nullify and contradict the basic Rules of Engagement and encourages and endorses several of the known Hazardous Attitudes enumerated in the NWCG IRPG on page xi.
“No [WF] is satisfied sitting there [in a Safety Zone] and watching the fire progress without … taking some action …”
"They protected themselves as a last resort … picked the best location in this bowl"
“Why do firefighters run into burning buildings … it’s ingrained in them … not going to sit up there when … potential for people to be at risk somewhere ... Structures come first ... Firefighter safety is a last resort"
Figure 4. PFD Wildland Batallion Chief Darrell Willis at GMHS Deployment Site Part 1 (left) Part 2 (right) Source: YouTube, InvestigativeMEDIA
According to alleged YH Fire "Lead Investigator" Mayhew: "Whatever it was that pulled them off that ridge, after years of making necessarily risky decisions on the fireline, Granite Mountain missed something on Yarnell Hill. And the numbers simply caught them. Mayhew grunted and set off down the hill, hiking toward 19 crosses five minutes from a ranch."
According to this author and many other WFs and FFs that worked with them, the GMHS under Marsh went far beyond the "necessarily risky decisions on the fireline" to the point of the complete opposite of unnecessarily risky decisions of the firelines. Alleged "Lead Investigator" Mayhew may want to consider that the general consensus of the SWA HS Crews during their October 2013 Fall After Action (AAR) Review at the Prescott NF Fire Center, Helms BSR, GMHS lunch spot, and fatality sites that had worked with Marsh felt otherwise. As revealed during a YH Fire and GMHS Deployment Site Site Visit Integration Phase statement from a senior HS Supt., i.e "This was the final fatal link in a long chain of bad decisions with good outcomes, we saw this coming for years" - with about a dozen others stating they had attempted peer pressure with the GMHS to change their ways for years and were unsuccessful.
Consider the Decisions-Outcomes Matrix below with the GMHS often in the Bad Decisions with Good Outcomes range.
Figure 5. Decisions and Outcomes Matrix Source: Sheff LLC CAWRT GMHS PPT