Jerry Williams: can-do, to make-do, to tragedy

This video was posted by Colorado Fire Camp on their Facebook page. It shows less than three minutes of a talk by Jerry Williams, who became Director of Fire and Aviation for the U.S. Forest Service. It was 1995, a year after 14 firefighters were killed on the South Canyon Fire in Colorado.

Here is a partial transcript of Jerry Williams’ talk:

…It’s a proud outfit. It’s a can-do outfit… It’s a real short step between can-do, and make-do, and from make do to tragedy.

If the forests we work in start to come undone and get too hot, we’ll go contain/confine and we’ll make-do. Our budgets drop, we’ll go with three per engine instead of five and we’ll make-do.

We come up short Division [Supervisors], we’ll rob a hotshot crew of a Division and put him on the division, and we’ll make-do.

We need to quit thinking about making do.

Maybe we need to quit thinking about just doing the job, and begin thinking about doing the job right.

I used to tell my firefighters, “If we can’t do it safely, we won’t do it at all.” Mr. Williams said it much more eloquently.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

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