Focus on normal work

Last known group photo taken by the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew. (Eric Marsh and Chris MacKenzie not shown.)

This Week of Remembrance is dedicated to all those who fell in the performance of their duty and must be an opportunity to renew our commitment to the health, well-being and safety of forest firefighters.

On June 30, 2013, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot team lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill fire. We are celebrating today the anniversary of this tragedy and the honor by learning. Anniversaries of such events give us all the opportunity to reflect on our mission and seek improvement. Every year, forest firefighters die in the performance of their duties. In 2013, our community lost 34 firefighter colleagues, 56% of them on a single fire. They were just doing normal work.

This year's Remembrance Week focuses on normal work, not exceptional events like Yarnell or South Canyon. We remember those days – but how many of you remember the events of July 21, 2009? Unless you know TJ or be a rapper, you may not remember that day. At Willow Helibase, Thomas (TJ), Marovich Jr. and his crew participated in their skill reminders every two weeks. Rappelling from a helicopter is a high risk / low frequency event and it is important to keep the skills acquired during these events. This day was a normal day. The crew had completed a full turn on the Backbone Fire, had returned home for two days of recovery and recovery, and then returned to Backbone Fire for another round. Before the crew could return to work, he had to complete his skills recall. TJ did not survive.

As we gain experience, we face a challenge. As we become familiar with a task, we naturally and inevitably focus less on this task. Whether it's pipe laying exercises, peer checks or 6 minutes for safety – we do a lot of things over and over again and they become a normal job.

In the coming days, we will explore today's events and the normal human limitations we all face. TJ died abseiling from a helicopter but it's not a rapper story, it's a human story.

Tomorrow we will begin with a glimpse of the inevitability due to the Willow helicopter. Remember that we honor by learning. Learning often involves a change. As a crew and as an individual, critically examine the tasks you have familiarized yourself with and do naturally and identify areas in which you can evolve.


  • Start today with a general discussion using the following questions:
  • Identify an activity that required your full attention at the beginning, but now you can do it without thinking.
  • When is your mind most likely to wander (did you hear about the weather forecast of today's fires?)
  • What do you do when you realize you have forgotten something?

How can you honor through learning?

NWCG Wildfire Remembrance Week topics, analyzes and resources were developed by the Forest Fire Lessons Learned Center, the NWCG Steering Committee and many other experts in the field.


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