Two NPS employees receive Paul Gleason awards

Chad Fisher and Jim Shultz,. NPS, received Paul Gleason award
Chad Fisher and Jim Shultz of the NPS received Paul Gleason Lead By Example awards

From the NPS Morning Report:


“Two staff members from the National Park Service Branch of Wildland Fire were recently awarded the prestigious Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award for 2013. The intent of this award is to recognize individuals or groups who exhibit Gleason’s professional spirit and who exemplify the wildland fire leadership values of duty, respect, and integrity.

Chad Fisher, wildland fire safety program manager, and Jim Shultz, wildland fire training program manager, each received the award. Only three individuals and one group from across the wildland fire service were chosen to receive this national award for 2013.

“To have not just one, but two employees, honored with this interagency award, really highlights the caliber of work and leadership by NPS wildland fire management staff,” said acting National Park Service Wildland Fire Branch Chief Mark Koontz. “Chad and Jim are outstanding representatives in their respective fields.”

bootsIn addition to his mission, vision, and dedication to ensuring that firefighter safety is always the number one objective on all assignments and every fire, regardless of size or complexity, Chad Fisher was recognized for his work with the Dutch Creek mitigations. Chad’s actions to reach across agency boundaries have contributed to a shift in culture regarding incident-within-an-incident planning. His dedicated effort to ensure  that staff  understand, weigh, and communicate the consequences of placing firefighters in harm’s way to decision-makers, along with  ensuring that there is a mechanism to evacuate injured firefighters, sets the example for all to follow.

He was also commended for his work with firefighter nutrition, the Incident Response Pocket Guide revision, leadership development activities, facilitated learning analyses, and serious accident investigation teams. Chad’s leadership exemplifies the values of duty, respect, and integrity.

Jim Shultz was recognized for his ability to develop subordinates across agency boundaries through programs like the Fire and Aviation Mentoring program and the National Interagency Joint Apprentice Committee. As memorial group supervisor for the Honor Guards and Pipes and Drums, Jim’s calm demeanor and leadership skills helped ensure all honor guards worked together to make the Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial Serviceas seamless as possible.

As an advocate for leadership development, Jim seeks improvement and develops others for the betterment of the individual as well as the team and organization. This has been shown through field assignments and pioneering the wildland fire leadership and career development video series to help young firefighters answer questions regarding the rights steps to take toward a permanent career as a wildland firefighter. Jim exemplifies the values of duty, respect and integrity.

The award was created by the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee to remember Paul Gleason’s contributions to the wildland fire service. During a career spanning five decades, Paul was a dedicated student of fire, a teacher of fire, and a leader of firefighters. The intent of this award is to recognize individuals or groups who exhibit this same spirit and who exemplify the wildland fire leadership values of duty, respect and integrity.

Congratulations to Chad and Jim on their achievements.”


Last year the awards were presented to Anthony Escobar, John Lauer and Shane Olpin.

NPR’s All Things Considered covers the Yarnell Hill Fire fatalities

The NPR interview that I mentioned in another article aired yesterday. I know because a friend that I had not heard from in over 20 years told me so.

When NPR reporter Nathan Rott called me I was in a sleazy motel room in Prescott, Arizona — the only room I could find anywhere near Prescott. The connection on my cell phone was terrible, so he interviewed me on the motel’s landline phone, which was not much better. In the version that ended up on NPR’s All Things Considered, I was only on for a few seconds, but the rest of the piece with Rott and Carl Seielstad is worth listening to. Mr. Rott said that he had been a firefighter for six years.

The recording of the four-minute interview is below, and HERE is a link to the transcript.

UPDATE: July 12, 2013: As a couple of people pointed out, in the interview it appears that Carl Seielstad is saying the concept of “Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, Safety Zone (LCES)” resulted from the fatalities on the South Canyon Fire. That apparent incorrect association may or may not be due to the editing process, but Paul Gleason developed the concept after his experience on the 1990 Dude Fire.

A fresh look at the tragic Dude Fire

Dude Fire Newpaper
The front page of The Arizona Republic, June 27, 1990. (click to enlarge)

A journalist, who is also an editor at Time, Inc., has taken a fresh look at the Dude Fire, 23 years after 6 firefighters were entrapped and killed in Walk Moore Canyon north of Payson, Arizona, June 23, 1990 — a day when the temperature in Phoenix reached 122 degrees, grounding jetliners because there was no reliable data confirming that fully loaded commercial aircraft could operate in that kind of heat.

Jaime Joyce conducted extensive research about the fire, talking to firefighters who survived, families that had to bury their sons, investigators who determined what happened and how the equipment functioned, and yes, attorneys who dealt with legal issues long after the funerals. She unearthed facts, stories, and perspectives that never made it into the official reports.

Firefighters can learn many lessons from reading the investigation report which was completed less than a month after the accident by Dick Mangan, Ted Putnum, Patricia Andrews, and six others.

Reading articles like the one written by Ms. Joyce can also impress upon a firefighter, especially those in the early part of their careers, that things CAN go wrong, horribly wrong, and how important it is to be responsible for your own safety (if you SEE something, SAY something) and to maintain situational awareness.

Ms. Joyce’s account, published at The Big Roundtable, brings to light details that would not normally be found in government reports — it shines a light on the accident from a different perspective. It also covers the battles fought by survivors and the victims’ families for various forms of restitution, largely futile, that persisted for years after the smoke cleared.

Below is an excerpt from the article:


“…The burnover lasted about 15 minutes. [Fire] shelters are designed to withstand temperatures up to 1,200 degrees. It must have been hotter in the heart of the flame front, since some of the shelters started to delaminate, the aluminum exterior separating from the fiberglass lining.

Davenport, Love, and LaTour stayed put. They waited inside their shelters until the area cooled down. LaTour used his radio to call for help but no one answered on any of the channels. Through the chatter, he heard someone say that help was coming. When the men finally emerged about 45 minutes later, shaky and weak, they followed the dozer line toward Control Road, their tattered shelters wrapped around their bodies like capes. As they walked, LaTour told the men not to look at the devastation that surrounded them. “We have to get out,” he said.

On the way down, they met Hoke, who was still inside his shelter. He emerged from his cocoon and joined the survivors. Ellis appeared next. As he walked toward the men, with his shelter tied around his forehead, his skin and clothing burned, the life drained out of him. “I’m dead,” Ellis told the others, and then he sat down on a log and died.

No one was waiting for the men at Control Road. Again, LaTour radioed for help and got no response. He headed west with his men about 200 yards, which is where a Forest Service truck met them. The men climbed into the bed of the pickup and were taken to a clearing, where they were given first aid. They were brought to the base camp next and flown by helicopter to Maricopa Medical Center, in Phoenix.

Before the flame front hit, the Alpine Hotshots foreman, Jim “J.P.” Mattingly, and his men had been conducting a burnout in Walk Moore Canyon just north of Perryville, using gasoline-filled drip torches to light small fires in order to clear vegetation and stop the spread of the blaze. When Mattingly saw the fire approaching, he had ordered his men to run north up the canyon, in the opposite direction of Perryville and Navajo. He had stepped away from the safety zone to take in his surroundings when he came across Paul Gleason, superintendent of the Zigzag Hotshots, and Paul Linse, superintendent of Flathead. Mattingly told the men that Perryville and Navajo had gone back toward Control Road, and that nobody else should be heading north up the canyon. But Gleason wanted to make sure no one was left. “Do you mind if we go back that way?” he asked. No one objected.

Their actions defied human instinct…”

(end of excerpt)


We contacted Ms. Joyce to ask her how she became interested in the Dude Fire. In addition to granting us permission to publish an excerpt, she was kind enough to provide the following answers to our inquiry:
Continue reading “A fresh look at the tragic Dude Fire”

Recipients of Lead by Example award announced

The winners of the 2012 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award have been announced. Below is information from the National Interagency Fire Center.


“Boise, Idaho – The Wildland Fire Leadership Development Committee announced that Anthony Escobar, John Lauer and Shane Olpin were selected for the 2012 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award.  The recipients were nominated for demonstrating valued leadership traits during or in support of wildland fire operations.

The Lead by Example Award is based on three categories: motivation and vision; mentoring and teamwork; and innovation or initiative. Individuals and groups from federal, state, local and tribal agencies are eligible for the award.

The annual award was created to honor Paul Gleason, a wildland firefighter whose career spanned several decades.  Gleason is best known for developing the LCES (Lookout, Communication, Escape Routes, Safety Zones) concept that became the foundation of wildland firefighter safety.  The awards highlight Gleason’s influence on and contribution to wildland fire management, while honoring those who demonstrate the spirit of leadership for which he was known.

Award Recipients for 2012

Anthony Escobar, Los Padres National Forest, US Forest Service, was selected for 37 years of service and contributions to the wildland fire service through mentoring and teamwork.  Escobar’s legacy includes the formation and leadership of the Kern Valley Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) for 17 years, a 20-year commitment to the California IHC Steering Committee, authoring documents such as “Support and Concern,” assembling an all-superintendent S-230 cadre for the Apprenticeship Academy, sought after instructor and public speaker, and his vision and leadership of the Bakersfield Fire Innovation Conference.

John Lauer, Tatanka Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC), Black Hills National Forest, USFS, was selected for his accomplishments and demonstration of leadership is action.  Lauer advocated that federal seasonal firefighters be given access to federal health insurance programs, which instigated President Obama’s executive order authority and directed the Office of Personnel Management to issue a rule change.  This accomplishment is consistent with the notion to look out for the well-being of peers and subordinates.

Shane Olpin, Fire Management Officer, Bitterroot National Forest, USFS, was selected for mentoring and engagement of upper management as well as his duties supporting the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program.  Olpin has influenced firefighters over the years through oversight of the L-180 and L-280 courses and incorporating leadership into the Annual Fireline Safety Refresher. Olpin also provided a new way to experience human factors training and helped change the landscape of all-hazard response through the L-180/280 Train-the-Trainer program.”

(end of NIFC announcement)


Some of the previous recipients of the award:

12 Questions for Joe Lowe

Today we have the seventh article of our series in which we ask current and retired leaders in the wildland fire service to answer 12 questions.

We appreciate everyone who is cooperating with this project. Some of their responses may add to the knowledge base of our new firefighters coming up through the ranks. If you have a suggestion of someone who would be a good candidate for these questions, drop us a line through our Contact Us page. And their contact information would be appreciated.

Below we hear from Joe Lowe, a former Director of the South Dakota Division of Wildfire Suppression and Type 2 Incident Commander of Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team C. Currently Joe is the owner of the Reflections of South Dakota Gallery in Rapid City.

Joe answered the first generation of the 12 Questions, which have since been modified.


Joe Lowe at gallery
Joe Lowe

When you think of an excellent leader in the fire service, who comes to mind first?
My departed teacher and friend Paul Gleason

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone before their first assignment as an Incident Commander?
This is advice I would give my ICT2 trainee. They are as follows and in no particular order:

  • Be committed to excellence
  • Have integrity
  • Know your job
  • Be politically astute
  • Know ICS/NIMs
  • Be loyal to your team and support the members of the team
  • Treat each team member with mutual respect
  • Be adaptable and flexible
  • Do not be afraid to admit your mistakes
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Be able to negotiate
  • Know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses
  • Be technically proficient at your job.

If someone is planning a prescribed fire, what is one thing that you hope they will pay particular attention to?
The weather factors present before you start the burn. Do they match your forecast?

What was the first very large fire you were on?
The Indian Fire in November of 1980. It burned 28,000 acres in Orange County and the Cleveland National Forest. I was a new firefighter and assigned to Type 3 engine,

What color should fire trucks be?
Why red of course

What was the first job you ever had?
A paper route.

What was the first job you had within the fire service?
A volunteer firefighter for CDF.

What cell phone do you have for personal use?
An Android 4G

What kind of computer do you have at home?

What gadgets can’t you live without?

What was the first vehicle that you bought?
A 1953 Ford Station Wagon

What was your most memorable vacation?
My 1st trip to Maui with my wife after we got married.

Lead by Example awards announced

2011 Lead by Example awards, wildland fireThe recipients for the 2011 Paul Gleason Lead by Example awards were announced today. This year four people were recognized for demonstrating valued leadership traits during or in support of wildland fire operations: Travis Dotson, Tony Doty, Patrick Lookabaugh, and Ralph Thomas.

Here is the text from the announcement issued today at the National Interagency Fire Center:

Continue reading “Lead by Example awards announced”