ALL Wildland Firefighters (WFs) are to follow the standards, guidelines, and principles contained within the Inter-agency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations, otherwise known as the Red Book. Below, I will address the following key Red Book chapters dealing with (1) Fire Leadership; (2) Safety and Risk Management and their Guiding Principles and Goal; and (3) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Required Fireline PPE. I cite from the respective sources immediately below and delve into these important subject areas further.
"Chapter 1 - Fire Leadership
"Leadership is the art of influencing people in order to achieve a result. The most essential element for success in the wildland fire service is good leadership. Good leaders provide purpose, direction, and motivation for wildland firefighters working to accomplish difficult tasks under dangerous, stressful circumstances. Leaders often face difficult problems to which there are no simple, clear-cut, by-the-book solutions. In these situations, leaders must use their knowledge, skill, experience, education, values, and judgment to make decisions and to take or direct action- in short, to provide leadership. All firefighters, regardless of position, must provide leadership." (emphasis added)
"Chapter 7 - Safety and Risk Management
"Firefighter and public safety is our first priority. ... Every supervisor, employee, and volunteer is responsible for following safe work practices and procedures, as well as identifying and reporting unsafe conditions." (emphasis added)
"These principles guide our fundamental wildland fire management practices,behaviors, and customs, and are mutually understood at every level of command. They include Risk Management, Standard Firefighting Orders and Watch Out Situations, LCES and the Downhill Line Construction Checklist. These principles are fundamental to how we perform fire operations, and are intended to improve decision making and firefighter safety. They are not absolute rules. They require judgment in application." (emphasis added)
"The goal of the fire safety program is to provide direction and guidance for safe and effective management in all activities. Safety is the responsibility of everyone assigned to wildland fire, and must be practiced at all operational levels from the national fire director, state/regional director, and unit manager to employees in the field. ..." (emphasis added)
I will discuss the aspects of Risk Management, Standard Firefighting Orders and Watch Out Situations, LCES and the Downhill Line Construction Checklist in a future posting. Consider now the Red Book direction on Personnel Protective Equipment.
"Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Required Fireline PPE"
"National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1977 compliant long-sleeved flame resistant shirt (yellow recommended)" (emphasis added) So then, to a thinking WF this implies that shirt sleeves must remain rolled down, (i.e. "long-sleeved flame resistant shirt")
Is a Structure Protection Specialist - a leader - with his sleeves rolled up while on the firelines setting a good example? Is this the type of influence the Red Book speaks about? Is this an example of a good leader providing purpose, direction, and motivation for his WFs?
I will now examine leadership principles from the perspective of some former US Navy SEALS and bullets cited directly from their book.
"Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”
“Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame. ... Take responsibility for leading everyone in your world subordinates and superiors alike. ... A leader must be attentive to details but not obsessed by them."
― Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (2015) Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Figure 1. Screenshot of Prescott FD (PFD) Wildland Battalion Chief (WBC) Darrell Willis wearing a wildland fire long-sleeved fire shirt with the left sleeve rolled up at marker seven seconds (video below) In the video it will be revealed that both sleeves are rolled up. He was the Structure Protection Specialist for the Double Bar A Ranch area on the YH Fire. (Source: AZ State Forestry (AZSF) files)
Figure 2. Screenshot of PFD WBC Darrell Willis wearing a wildland fire long-sleeved fire shirt with the right sleeve rolled up at marker six seconds in the video below. (Source: AZSF files)
Willis' wristwatch and wedding ring in the screenshots above certainly 'match' this other photo within the links below:
Figure 3. PFD BC Cory Moser video, about 12:10 PM on June 30, 2013, at the Double-Bar-A Ranch area where PFD WBC Darrell Willis and his Task Force were doing structure protection work. All Moser videos of initial VLAT drops that day were filmed between 12:03 and 12:13 PM. (Source: AZSF files)
PFD WBC Willis is a leader in the Prescott FD and within the general fire industry. His rolled up shirt sleeves on the fireline do not meet the requirements set forth in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1977 standards referenced further below. His actions as a leader are contrary to established wildland fire leadership principles. And even though many WFs may consider it a minor infraction and of no real consequence, his actions fall well within the 'Normalization of Deviance' principles examined by 'The Challenger Launch Decision' author Diane Vaughan (1996, 2016). Vaughan described this principle as social normalization of deviance which means that people within the organization become so accustomed to a deviant behavior that they do not consider it as deviant, even though their actions go beyond their organizational safety rules (1996). In other words, "... they become more accustomed to the deviant behavior the more it occurs. "[Those] ... within the organization do not recognize the deviance because it is seen as a normal occurrence. ..." (1996).
The PFD often speaks about the ambiguous "Prescott Way," so we need to ask ourselves if this is what they mean by that.
However, there is this: June 27, 2014 at 10:03 pm Frank Carrol stated over at Wildfire Today : "Kari Greer was castigated for taking photos of firefighters fighting fire with their sleeves rolled up." (emphasis added) So, that made me, the common civilian, think to myself 'oh yeah, Willis had his sleeves up in some video I have --- or was it instead --- what was up his sleeves?' Was it him (un)intentionally concealing videos/audios from that part of the day, June 30, 2013?
It is interesting to note that PFD Cory Moser was serving as a Type 3 Incident Line Safety Officer in a 2012 Annual Prescott Basin Spring Wildfire Drill training scenario. Hopefully, PFD BC Moser corrected his superior (Willis) on this safety matter at some point during the June 30, 2013 YH Fire.
What is interesting to note is that the Moser video provides evidence that Willis was taking either photos or a videos of the VLAT drops out there at the Double-Bar-A Ranch circa 12:10 PM. However, there is NO evidence of THESE photos and/or videos to the Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT). Whatever Willis is 'shooting' there in the Moser video does NOT appear in his 'Photos and Video' folder in the SAIT evidence Dropbox. Yet I was able to retrieve them from among my voluminous AZ Public Record Requests.
So then, it begs the question of how many MORE photos and/or videos ( with possible audio, radio captures ) did Willis NOT pass on to the SAIT. Is this what they mean by "the Prescott Way"? The PFD Darrell Willis' folder is located in the SAIT evidence Dropbox at the link below.
Earlier in 2018 I snail mailed Willis the subject matter in this post that I would like to meet before putting the data out public, and I never heard back from him.
Figure 4. June 30, 2014, YouTube video about the GMHS (“Team of 12 had sacred task of recovering bodies of fallen hotshots” ABC 15 News Arizona) Source: YouTube - ABC15 News Arizona
The one speaking in the video is Prescott Fire Captain (PFC) from 1994 to 2015 J.P. Vicente (he is erroneously referred to as a Fire Chief in the video) He makes a bizarre statement from 2:23 to 2:32.
PFC J.P. Vicente, speaking about the GMHS, said: “They’re all heroes. And they did what they loved doing. AND THEY WOULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN IN A HEARTBEAT. I’M TELLING YOU RIGHT NOW. THEY WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING.” (2:23 to 2:32)
Are you kidding me!? They would do it all over again in a heartbeat and would not change a thing! (sigh) From what I remember that is the definition of insanity, doing the same things over and over expecting a different result.
These statements by the PFD Captain are rather disturbing and seem to reveal a trend in the PFD attitude toward WF safety. During the July 2013 Fatality Site News Conference, PFD WBC Darrell Willis made similar comments regarding the PFD and the GMHS and their attitudes, beliefs, human factors, and ways of thinking about safety and structure protection. Does this respectively and collectively reveal another facet of the Prescott Way?
Figure 5. GMHS co-founder and Prescott Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis at the GMHS Deployment Site - Video Part 1. Published on Jul 24, 2013. Darrell Willis answers media questions where 19 members of his Crew died on June 30, 2013. Source: InvestigativeMEDIA John Dougherty
Figure 6. GMHS co-founder and Prescott Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis at the GMHS Deployment Site - Video Part 2. Published on Jul 24, 2013. Darrell Willis answers media questions where 19 members of his Crew died on June 30, 2013. Source: InvestigativeMEDIA John Dougherty
Some say that Willis considered these men his sons, and so he was likely in some form of shock. I have a lot of empathy for the man, for the loss of his men. What I am questioning here is his leadership and his and the PFD safety attitude.
He made these following statements:
"... they were doing their work all day long (1:58) I was there. I disagree. When I saw them many times throughout that day, they were at a standstill or rest.
"... it was ten foot chaparral, very volatile fuel ..." (2:39) This comment was my very first reason why I reached out to Willis to correct him on that specific area, the box canyon. The truth of the matter is the chaparral was waist-high and NOT ten foot high as he claimed. I showed him my photos that i took of the same area on June 30, 2013 before the men died.
“ … they were in a safe location, they were not satisfied and no WF is satisfied sitting there and watching the fire progress without doing … taking some action …” (4:00)
"... they started to move down that hill in that drainage (5:30)... just imagine having brush in that drainage ten foot high ... (5:46), ... the fire was totally blocked from their view, they can't see the fire over in that point, so they've committed to go downhill at this point ... at that point that's when things started to change dynamically ... (6:07), they were committed to go downhill. (6:35) ... they knew that they had fire on both sides of them, they knew they had fire behind them and now they had fire ahead of them.(6:45) ..."
Pure bullshit, especially the part about the ten foot chaparral. "it's a bullshit." WFs are trained that drainages (chutes and chimneys) funnel strong winds and fire behavior and are therefore very dangerous, within the Common Denominators. Fire Order number two is know your fire is doing at all times and LCES requires a lookout.
”I can tell you they died with honor. … a unique situation … they stuck together, … they saw and felt the same way ... I would have been with that Crew blindfolded,(12:11) they could have led me down here, I would have been with them, I had complete faith and confidence in the leadership … they would have never taken a risk they didn't think ... it's a risky business ... but they don't take undue risk ... very safety conscious, and ah it's just one of those things that happened (12:35) ... … you can call it an accident …I just say God had a different plan for that Crew at this time. ... (12:43) one of the things they emphasize is [LCES]." (13:17)
Several of these comments suggest many of the elements in the recognized hazardous attitude of Groupthink. ( http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/sam/groupthink_johnson.pdf )
When asked by one of the news media if the GMHS had specific rules to follow, he said “they [GMHS] emphasized ... (LCES), (13:19)… ,however, there are points during that workday that you don’t have that in place. They had a lookout, …(13:30) there are times when they are out here in this environment that you don't have all those standards in place especially with them moving like they were. You couldn’t leave anybody behind.“ (14:03)
LCES must ALWAYS be in place in order to fight the fire...REPEAT...always be in place; otherwise you are not suppose to engage the fire. So then, are all these included in the Prescott Way of fighting fire?
webmaster reviewed page last: 7-19-18 1:45pm