Is our culture in critical danger of extinction?


Canon of the Battle of Gettysburg
Ridge Cemetery / Pickett Area & # 39; s Charge

I recently watched TEDx's speech by Barry Mosses: Preserving Endangered Languages. I found enlightening speech on many levels, including diversity and inclusion. On the issue of leadership, though, I started thinking about the forest fire service and whether the culture change that occurred as a result of the South Canyon tragedy is in jeopardy.

Watch Barry talk about preserving his culture, then read why I'm a little worried.

In July 1994, fourteen firefighters lost their lives in the performance of their duties at Storm King Mountain. Following their death, federal wildland fire agencies commissioned the Firefighter Safety Awareness Study (often referred to as the TriData study). This study resulted in hundreds of recommendations, two of which were the creation of the Forest Fire Lessons Learned Center and the Forest Fire Leadership Development Program (WFLDP).

The NWCG Executive Committee was formed to develop and administer the WFLDP. I am honored and honored to be the oldest member of the committee since its inception in February 2002. As I look back over the years and the whole group and its followers have accomplished, I do not do it with pink glasses .

The WFLDP made the difference. Studies have shown a culture change. I know that we have changed the venacular (our language). I hear words like presence to command, duty, respect, integrity, bias for action, mission-driven culture, and so on. But something seems different. A person who knows our company very well, who must remain nameless, wonders whether or not Leader in the forest fire department was our upper limit (maximum level or value).

For those of you who are aware of the Gettysburg staff tour or the battle itself, the area on the cemetery crest marks the farthest point by the Confederate soldiers at course of Pickett's charge. Having attended the Gettysbury Staff Hike twice, I want to make sure that we do not suffer the same fate as the Confederate army and that we lose the battle.

View of the cemetery crest, Pickett's charge site
View of the cemetery ridge area, Pickett's charge site

Our culture is not dead … not yet. This is a battle cry for action. The young leaders who championed the program early on are approaching retirement or have retired. Some, like Shawnna Legarza and Chris Wilcox, have become fire service managers. Operators who once sat around the room – along with circle elders – took on agency roles on the NWCG board. Unfortunately, the chairs they emptied are no longer as full as before. Tight budgets and an exhausted workforce have undermined the synergy that once existed.

Leadership dies when innovation stagnates. The WFLDP was not developed for the older generation. This was not a unique solution for a fire. We are not here to equate each person with a way of thinking. We are here to meet the needs of today and serve those of today. Who knows this better than those at the "spearhead" – the line firefighter.

I challenge you to find a way to be part of the Leadership 2.0 movement. Be someone who takes what has been done almost 20 years ago and moves it to the future. Personalize the program by associating yourself!

Contact your agency representative today to find out more.


Leadership Challenge in Forest Fires – Fucking A Little Further


Pam McDonald is a writer and editor for BLM Wildland Fire Training and Workforce Development and a member of the NWCG Leadership subcommittee. The expressions are those of the author.