Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Go Save Some Shoes!

"Don't wait until you make your first million to make a difference in somebody's like. If you have something to give, give it now." ~ Mark Bezos
No act is too small when it comes to leadership. Grace, kindness and humility are woven into the fabric of great leaders. Greatness does not have to come by valor acts. Often times, our greatest moments come from the smallest actions: a smile, a helping hand, listening, coaching, or our mere presence.

In his "A Life Lesson from a Volunteer Fireman" YouTube video, Mark Bezos states it best, "Not every day offers us an opportunity to save somebody's life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one--to get in the game. Save the shoes!"

Watch Mark's short presentation.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge: Leadership is ACTION
We challenge you and/or your team to go beyond self and do something for someone else. The task does not have to be great. Here are some ideas:

  • Mentor someone.
  • Give someone a copy of "Leading in the Wildland Fire Service."
  • Identify something that needs attention and take care of it; e.g., weed a flower bed, pick up trash, wash window.
  • Say "thank you."
  • Donate your time.
If you take the challenge, we want to hear about it. Send us a message or photo to BLM_FA_Leadership_Feedback@blm.gov.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Food for Thought - Happy Labor Day

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." ~ Confucius

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." ~ Confucius

We give a shout out to all those who find themselves working this Labor Day. We appreciate your service and wish you good rest soon.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Keys to My Car

by Jay C. Stalnacker

It was probably the absolute best day I’ve ever had in fire. We had loaded up on the jump plane and headed towards the Salmon River as there was a huge dry lightning storm that had moved thru the area and numerous fires were reported. As the plane flew down canyon we looked excitedly out the windows as there were small and large white smoke plumes on both sides of the river.

As we continued we saw the McCall jump plane beginning to throw streamers and soon the first load of jumpers. We then circled around and began our own deployment. It was truly going to be a “good deal” fire for all of us. We jumped in two man “sticks”. It was my first fire jump on our forest and I was partnered with one of the senior jumpers, Robin. She was mostly silent to the rookies and generally kept out of the bars at night and seemed to be focused.

I was nervous because the terrain was steep and the jump spots were very small. One miscalculation and you could end up in the top of a tree or even worse. We were one of the last sticks out the door and by this time I was extremely airsick from the constant circling of the plane, smell of jet fuel and low altitude air currents. Soon I was hooked up and lined up right behind Robin looking down I watched her feet dangle from the door into thin air. I unexpectedly received the “go” slap on my back and Robin fell away into the blue sky and intuitively I followed. After opening my eyes I looked up as trained and confirmed my main chute was open and then within moments the steep rocky and very small jump spot was approaching. I saw Robin’s chute laying open on the ground and could hear her shout “I’m ok” as I went screaming by into the small hole between the massive trees. Soon I was safely on the ground packing my chute as Robin watched obviously frustrated with my slow effort. She quickly turned and took off up the steep mountain towards the fire. She never really said a word to me for about the first few hours as we dug line around a 5 acre fire. We soon were pulling and pushing a cross cut saw together trying to fell the large ponderosa pine that had been struck by lightning. During that struggle to find a smooth rhythm we struck up a friendship. After many hours of bucking the large tree and digging line, the fire was somewhat secured and we took a break. We spent the next three days talking while digging, chunking, cutting and mopping up the fire. It was just the two of us and we were in the middle of the Idaho wilderness.

After checking that the fire was out for the last time we began our 8 hour hike out of the wilderness and towards our pick up. I was amazed at her strength as we had dug some tough line and cross cut a lot of big trees and logs by hand. I was exhausted but she seemed to have even more energy as we began the beautiful but strenuous hike out. We walked carrying heavy loads, almost 100 pounds each. Never stopping for longer than a few moments to pick fresh berries or watch as a bear crossed the path in front of us.

By this time Robin had opened up a little more and we were telling each other stories of fire, friends and family. She was one of the few Grangeville female jumpers and coming in at a whopping 100 pounds soaking wet and under 5 feet tall kicked most everyones butt. As most outdoor woman, she had a natural beauty and sense of intuition that was impossible to ignore. Over that year we became friends and she continued to mentor me as I made foolish rookie mistakes. She will always be a friend, mentor and is truly a leader.

I’ve worked for, with and had many women work for me in my 18 years. I’ve always been amazed by the strength, courage and attitude each has displayed. As in most professions being female does have a undeserved stigma by some and in wild fire, law enforcement and public safety in general it’s sometimes even more challenging. Most successful women in our profession seem to understand this stigma and quickly learn ways to work past the egotistical men and competitive female counterparts. It’s women like Robin who have earned their place in leadership and done so thru surrounding themselves with family, faithful friends and incredible mentors. Taking the lessons learned and making adjustment and change, it’s called resiliency.

I now mentor both young men and women and am continually surprised at the quality of character and work ethic women bring to the profession. I think of the names and faces of women that have inspired me like; Sonya, Julie, Robin, Andrea, Paige, Lenora, Jenny, Pamela, Tricia Michelle, Viola, Connie, Joanne and of course my incredible wife Kim. Each has qualities I will spend my lifetime trying to acquire. Patience, commitment, understanding, passion and inner strength are all elements that make each of these women and many like them very special.

In church last year Jim talked about fatherhood and provided an analogy as he was trying to show the importance of the fathers role in a young girls life. He asked “would you give the keys to your new car to a 16 year old boy and not ask where he was going or when he was going to be back?” Of course not, so why would you let him take your young daughter out of your house without asking the same questions? The point is about how important it is for the father to be part of a young girls life. She needs to know she is loved and that she does not need acceptance for her looks or how she dresses. This foundation along with a mothers gentle hand and special touch will ensure we can raise women like Robin. We need to work early to build resilience so when the challenges happen later they have something to catch their fall.

So I encourage all of the incredible women and fathers of young girls reading this post to embrace that role of leadership. I recently witnessed an example of this mentorship. The young women who coach Aspen’s competition cheer team, organized a “sleep over” which didn’t focus on watching movies and general goofing around but rather on building character and a team. It was wonderful to watch young women mentor young girls building resilience thru teamwork, trust and encouragement. In today’s world we are surrounded by female entertainers and athletes who create a false image for women and set them up for a lifetime of seeking perfection. We need to shift this effort and like Robin and I pushing and pulling that crosscut saw, work together to put a line around our girls and keep out the unrealistic advertising and encourage and build future female leaders.

Join me and build a leader by mentoring and leading a young girl or woman and help build our future…

Reprinted with permission by Jay Stalnacker, FMO Boulder County Sheriff's Office, from his blog "The North Star Foundation." All expressions are those of the author.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Big Burn Comes to PBS

The Public Broadcasting System's American Experience will be featuring "The Big Burn"--the story of wildfires that raged across the Northern Rockies in 1910. Stay tuned for an air date.

Bonus Video:

Food for Thought - Example

"It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, it's what we do consistently." ~ Tony (Anthony) Robbins

"It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, it's what we do consistently." ~ Tony (Anthony) Robbins

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

OPM Leadership 360 Comes to Carson City

OPM assessments
(Photo credit: Office of Personnel Management)
The BLM's Carson City Division of Fire and Aviation is taking the value of integrity seriously and implementing the principle "actively listen to feedback from subordinates" into action. Nineteen fire managers, supervisors and team leads from their program will focus on leadership development through the administation of OPM's (Office of Personnel Management) Leadership 360™ assessment tool. A 360 assessment opens up participants to evaluation from those around them.

Here is what OPM says about the assessment tool:

Leadership 360™

OPM developed the OPM Leadership 360™ assessment to provide feedback to Federal supervisors, managers, and executives on the 28 OPM leadership competencies included in the Governmentwide Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs). Items on the Leadership 360™ assess behaviors needed for success in public sector organizations, helping leaders identify their strengths and developmental needs. Also included are items to identify particularly important competencies and assess overall effectiveness and impact.

Benchmarks are available based on our database of Federal leaders who have completed the assessment. Currently the Leadership 360™ database includes more than 21,000 participants who have been rated by more than 220,000 raters. The database contains participants from all leadership levels, including non-supervisors, supervisors, managers, and executives.

The Leadership 360™ covers all competencies in the OPM Leadership Competency Model.
  • Fundamental Competencies: Interpersonal Skills, Written Communication, Oral Communication, Integrity/Honesty, Continual Learning, Public Service Motivation
  • Leading Change: Creativity & Innovation, External Awareness, Flexibility, Resilience, Strategic Thinking, Vision
  • Leading People: Conflict Management, Leveraging Diversity, Developing Others, Team Building
  • Results Driven: Accountability, Customer Service, Decisiveness, Entrepreneurship, Problem Solving, Technical Credibility
  • Business Acumen: Financial Management, Human Capital Management, Technology Management
  • Building Coalitions: Partnering, Political Savvy, Influencing/Negotiating
OPM administers the assessment online, and each participant receives a detailed, confidential feedback report. Group orientation and feedback briefings help guide participants through the assessment process and results. OPM provides an aggregate report to the organization that summarizes the results for the set of leadership participants.

Additional services are also available. OPM can provide customized aggregate reports based on supervisory status and/or organization. Each participant can also receive an individual feedback session where an OPM Research Psychologist or certified coach goes through the results with the participant to help identify developmental opportunities.

Visit the OPM website for more information on OPM Leadership 360.
Thanks to the Carson City District, Nevada BLM for this From the Field for the Field submission. Contact Shane McDonald, FMO, for more information.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Food for Thought - Inner Drives

"People push themselves, when you tap their inner drives and get out of the way." ~ Dan Rockwell

"People push themselves, when you tap their inner drives and get out of the way." ~ Dan Rockwell

Friday, August 22, 2014

Swiss-Cheese Model (SCM) and Margin

Concept of MarginJames Reasons Swiss Cheese Model
Authors: Ivan Pupulidy, Director and Matt Carroll, Human Factors Specialist; USDA Forest Service Office of Learning

Comparing the Swiss Cheese Model (SCM) and Margin is not a direct “apples to apples” comparison. The SCM was introduced to the wildland fire community through the L-380 curriculum and is intended primarily, as an “ innovative framework for thinking about human error…[that] scrutinizes all levels in an organization when looking for the causes of human error” (Mission-Centered Solutions Inc., 2007, p. 55). It was designed to pinpoint the causes of an accident or error by describing the holes in defenses that, when aligned through multiple levels, create an error chain. Margin, is focused on the influence that conditions have on decisions and actions; it does not attempt to describe a linear causal relationship among conditions at various levels, rather it describes the collective influence of these conditions. The focus can then shift from cause to understanding the capacity to cope with uncertainty, error and surprise. SCM is intended to make sense of an accident after it happens, whereas margin, while it can be used in accident analysis, is designed to help users describe the potential for the system to do harm before an accident occurs.

While these differences may seem academic they are not, they have a significant effect on practical application and learning. In accident investigation for example the models we choose can influence what we look for and in turn influence what we ‘see’, or determine what is relevant to the investigation. Erik Hollnagel warns us that a model can bias the perspective of analysts when he describes the, “What –You-Look-For-Is-What-You-Find (WYLFIWYF)” principle (Lundberg, et al., 2009). This principle suggests that the model used for a review of an event will determine what you find and more importantly for us, what you fix[1]. This in turn affects what is learned and how that learning is applied to improve system performance. In light of this we should focus on how these models determine what we ‘see’ and therefore what we fix. We should ask what it is that we want to do, “Do we simply want to find and fix defenses (i.e., plugging hole, fixing/adding barriers) or do we want to find ways to increase the system’s capacity to weather error/surprise and uncertainty without consequence?”

SCM opened our eyes to the influence of upstream failures or holes in defenses, but is limited in that it is best used after the fact and it focuses on error or absence (looks for holes). By drawing an error chain you lose the ability to talk about the influence (good or bad) of other conditions throughout the system. Calling something an error, weakness, omission, failure (Mission-Centered Solutions Inc., 2007, p. 56) (Reason, 1990) artificially simplifies the nature of conditions; because every error was likely a solution to, or influenced by, something else. SCM results in plugging the detected holes in the failed barrier to avoid some downstream event. This process is designed to make systemic corrections at a managerial level (leadership adds more barriers or defenses, e.g. rules, regulations, policy, procedures or PPE). What is suggested is only part of the issue of prevention. SCM suggests the responsibility of creating safety is done up stream in the organizational leadership.

Margin opens the discussion to include the role of workers in the creation of safety. It provides a means of describing and detecting the capacity of a system by focusing on the margin available for action. After an accident conditions play a different role in the margin concept. They are intended to mapped or recognized as influences to decisions and actions. Describing these conditions places actions and decisions in context and allows us to move beyond fixes.

For an introduction to the concept of Margin, please refer to the following short video:

Works Cited
Lundberg, J., Rollenhagen, C. & Hollnagel, E., 2009. What-You-Look-For-Is-What-You-Find - The consequences of underlying accident models in eight accident investigation manuals. Safety Science, Volume 47, pp. 1297-1311.

Mission-Centered Solutions Inc., 2007. Fireline Leadership (L-380). Missoula (MT): Mission-Centered Solutions Inc..

Reason, J., 1990. The Contribution of Latent Human Failures to the Breakdown of Complex Systems. Philisophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological, 12 April, 327(1241), pp. 475-484.

[1] Based on the corollary principle of “What-You-Find-Is-What-You-Fix” (Lundberg, Rollenhagen, & Hollnagel, 2009).

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Rocky Mountain Region Bulletin - Blackwater Fire 1937
On August 21, 1937, the tragic Blackwater Fire caused the death of 15 firefighters, burning approximately 1,700 acres of Shoshone National Forest land, near Cody, Wyoming.

An electrical storm occurred in the general vicinity of Blackwater Creek on Wednesday, August 18th causing a fire, which was not detected until August 20th. At the time of detection, the fire appeared to be only 2 acres in size and was located in the drainage bottom. By the evening of Friday, August 20th, the fire had grown to approximately 200 acres and there were 58 men and 7 overhead constructing fireline in an orderly manner and with good speed. Early Saturday morning the man-power was about evenly distributed along the two main flanks of the fire. As more crews arrived and line construction advanced to the east on the hottest section of fireline, a blowup of the fire occurred at approximately 1545 caused by the combination of an undiscovered "spot" and the passage of a dry cold front. In this conflagration, 9 deaths occurred directly. Six additional men were so badly burned that death ensued, and 38 additional men suffered injuries.
Blackwater Fire 1937

Preliminary reports on this lightning fire showed that initial action was vigorous; quite remarkably so, considering the remote location of the fire and that the Shoshone National Forest was considered a low-danger forest. The forest didn't even have lookout stations. Up until 1939, the Blackwater Fire was the largest loss of life from a single national forest fire since 1910.

The Blackwater Fire was the first fatality fire to have significant investigation and study of the event done immediately after the tragedy. This analysis of the fire eventually led to the development of the smokejumper program, a management action to address the time delay problems encountered for crews responding to the fire.

In memory of
~ Alfred G. Clayton, Ranger
~ James T. Saban, Technical Foreman
~ Rex A. Hale, Jr. Assistant to the Technician
~ Paul E. Tyrrell, Jr. Forester
~ Billy Lea, Bureau of Public Roads Crewman
~ Clyde Allen
~ Roy Bevins
~ Ambrogio Garcia
~ John B Gerdes
~ Will C. Griffith
~ Mack T. Mayabb
~ George Rodgers
~ Ernest Seelke
~ Rubin Sherry William Whitlock

Honor through learning and visit the Staff Ride Library.


Food for Thought - Seeds of Hope

"Even in obstacles, a leader finds the seeds of hope." ~ Steve Gutzler

"Even in obstacles, a leader finds the seeds of hope." ~ Steve Gutzler