By Brit Rosso
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center
We should never forget that the landmark interagency safety study1 regarding the 1994 South Canyon Fire that took the lives of 14 wildland firefighters recommended that a permanent “lessons-learned” program be established for this country’s wildland firefighters. This sobering tragedy confirmed the need to help ensure that, on every wildland fire assignment, every firefighter safely returns home.
We developed the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) to take the lead in improving safe work performance and organizational learning for all wildland firefighters.
Launched in 2002 at the National Advanced Resource Technology Center (NARTC) in Marana, Arizona, the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center has evolved into a Web-based educational and knowledge resource center for this country’s interagency wildland fire community.
This community comprises a wide spectrum of federal, state, tribal, and local agencies. Although all these groups had been collecting data and learning from past incidents for years, their information had never been consolidated into one central location—until the LLC.
In 2005, we relocated from NARTC to the National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute (NAFRI) in Tucson, Arizona. Today a full-time staff operates the LLC, including two off-site employees located in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. The Center also employs several key contractors and consultants. We are supported by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), which includes multiple federal, state, and local fire and land management agencies.
In addition, the LLC collaborates with several groups and associations across the country, including the National Association of State Foresters, the Federal Fire and Aviation Safety Team, and the Nature Conservancy.
Various Web Sites
Besides making personal contacts at meetings, conferences, workshops, seminars, and wildfire academies throughout the United States, the LLC provides four Web sites:
- http://www.wildfirelessons.net—LLC’s homepage offers information on what’s new, an incident review database, information covering advances in fire practice, videos, and links. A range of timely information is always available here for wildland firefighters, including training recommendations, tactics, tips, procedures, useful technologies, and information on current wildland fire-based reports and publications.
- http://www.myfirecommunity.net—This online community center links individual “neighborhoods” of interagency hotshot crews, smokejumpers, engine crews, fire ecologists, fire dispatchers, and various other wildland fire communities.
- http://www.imtcenter.net—This continually growing site welcomed 13 new incident management teams (IMTs) last year for a total of 134 teams. The teams include IMT Types 1-4, fire use management teams, area command teams, national incident management organization teams, fire prevention teams, and state teams. The site provides one centralized location for these teams to host their Web sites without the need for a webmaster or special software training. Team center service includes calendars, team rosters, photo galleries, and secure file sharing for these teams and their public audiences. The teams can maintain their contact and availability information in a secure, private part of their team’s site.
- http://www.myfirevideos.net—Wildland firefighters can add to more than 400 videos by uploading wildland fire videos. LLC-generated learning and training videos are also available for download here.
Lessons Learned in Heavy Equipment
We recently added the heavy equipment field as a special lessons learned page. All documents, videos, images, and announcements from the LLC pertaining to the heavy equipment field will be housed at this “Lessons Learned in Heavy Equipment” page. For those who would like to learn more or help provide content for this page, contact LLCHeavyEquipment@gmail.com.
An example of the many lessons learned videos available on the LLC’s “Learning from Incidents” page is an account from a dozer boss who survived a fire shelter deployment at the 2005 I-90 Fire in Montana. As with most of the LLC’s videos, this production “Mike Friend: One Firefighter’s Account of Thinking Ahead—and Surviving” can be easily downloaded for viewing.
Future Goals of the LLC
The primary mission of the LLC is to listen to and stay relevant with the fire community. Our future goals include increasing our communication and collaboration with other fire communities, continuing to share our products and services with training development groups, and looking for holes or gaps in the communication and information flow up and down the chain of command within the fire service. Wherever we can, we strive to find better ways to fill these gaps.
This year marks the 17th anniversary of the South Canyon Fire, in which 14 wildland firefighters perished. In their memory, and to the memory of all firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty, the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center was created. As the LLC moves forward, we will continue to provide the fire community with useful and relevant products and services delivered to firefighters in the right place at the right time.
BRIT ROSSO has been the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center’s manager since 2010. He previously served as fire management officer at Kings Canyon National Park and was superintendent of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshot Crew for 10 years. He worked in the field of fire management at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for 25 years. In 2005, he received the national Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award in recognition of his wildland fire mentoring and teamwork skills and achievements.
1In the aftermath of the fatal 1994 South Canyon Fire, the five federal wildland fire agencies chartered the “Wildland Firefighter Safety and Awareness” study to identify and change aspects of the underlying organizational culture that negatively impact firefighter safety. This study is popularly known as the “TriData Study” after the corporation that conducted the research. Designed to examine the federal wildland firefighting community and improve firefighter safety, its first phase focused on interviewing or surveying more than 1,000 firefighters, ranging from basic firefighters to crew supervisors, incident management team members, fire management officers, and agency administrators, to explore their perceptions of the underlying issues that surround firefighter safety, the organizational culture, leadership, accountability, and human factors affecting firefighter safety. Phase II defined a set of goals for guiding the agencies in establishing a vision of the future organizational culture, leadership, human factors, and the external environment that would improve firefighter safety. Phase III summarized the study and provided implementation strategies to complement its key wildland firefighter safety recommendations.
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center’s Mission Statement
The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center actively promotes a learning culture to enhance and sustain safe and effective work practices for the wildland fire community.
The Center provides opportunities and resources to foster collaboration among all fire professionals, facilitates their networks, provides access to state-of-the-art learning tools, and links learning to training.