Former dispatcher: the training and experience of fire managers no longer relevant

Teepee Springs Fire, 8-29-2015
Teepee Springs Fire, August 29, 2015, as seen from Island Bar in Idaho. InciWeb photo.

Allison Linville, a former aircraft dispatcher for the U.S. Forest Service, wrote an interesting article for High Country News, saying last year’s fires pushed wildland firefighters to the edge.

Below is an excerpt:

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“…In Montana, fire managers were watching fire models and using their extensive training and experience to manage fires just as they always had, only to have people on the ground begging them to understand that they were seeing something totally different. “Their models weren’t showing what a beast it actually was,” said a firefighter on the Flathead National Forest. She was talking about a fire that she barely escaped before it blew up.

It occurred to me last August that wildfires have become qualitatively different. And it was a disturbing thought, the realization that no one had the ability to manage fire anymore. Fire managers can’t understand the fires we have today, because their training and experience are no longer relevant to modern-day fires.

Given the conditions now piling up — hot summers, long fire seasons, low snowpack, heavy fuel loading, an ignorant public, erratic storms — there is simply not enough education or experience available to help teach a fire manager what to do. It’s not the managers’ fault; it’s not any one person’s fault.”

Author: Bill Gabbert

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

3 thoughts on “Former dispatcher: the training and experience of fire managers no longer relevant”

  1. Interesting that an individual “within” the fire community has chosen to speak up in a non-fire and non-management publication. It seems that somehow she feels firefighters and fire managers are totally divorced from one another, or that the one’s reality is true based on what they see (wonder how much experience and training is behind that view) and the other is blindly glued to a computer screen. And really, was last year a new or major revelation to us, or simply another indicator of what we all know – firefighters, fire managers, and even dispatchers – that our fire environment is changing and our challenges are increasing?

  2. As we become firefighters that go indirect most of the time, we will continue to lose knowledge.

  3. Yes the managers are loosing focus of what the fires are doing. They need to get away from their cubicle and visit the fire area. I feel that the current crop of ground pounders and (IHC/Engine Captain/Helicopter Supervisor/) fireline supervisors are the only ones that truly understand the harsh reality of modern day fire. They are asked to do more with less, manage people that sometimes are hired because “they have a pulse,” and are consistently put in situations that they shouldn’t be by others that aren’t there. Personally, I will make sure everyone gets home safe, even if it gets me demerits/poor evals from my supervisor for going beyond initial attack.

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