Forest fire leadership: think LCES

pink flag

Each generation has a turning point in its history. The COVID-19 pandemic is one such moment. Now is the time for strong leadership. No one is immune to the impact of this pandemic. Most importantly, every person at all levels of the organization has the ability to make a difference. Each of us has the ability to lead and SHOULD lead.

What does it look like to lead in a crisis? The responses are as varied as the situation presented to us, but we could perhaps adapt LCES to intensify our response:


  • Who do you have to look after the health of each crew member?
  • Are the people acting as watchers experienced, competent and trustworthy?
  • Do you have enough views on good views?
  • Do your watchers have a good knowledge of the locations of the teams?
  • Do your lookouts know the trigger points?
  • Are your lookouts equipped with the right tools and do they know the plan?

Communication (s)

  • Confirm that you have stable communication loops from top to bottom of the chain of command.
  • Establish regular check-in times with your team.
  • Provide updates on any change in situation.
  • Audible alarm early, not late.
  • Make sure your communications are clear, concise and honest.

Evacuation routes)

  • Support team members who fall ill or have to take care of their family members.
  • Identify and make known to all obstacles to security.
  • Look for each symptom of illness in each crew member.
  • Be prepared to withdraw the team if necessary.

Safety zone (s)

  • Follow CDC guidelines and agency requirements for social distancing.
  • Always use your PPE!
  • Respect personal space and security needs.

This blog does not replace the CDC and local protocols. It is intended to use something that we all know to help us take care of each other.

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