Expertly training the tactical athlete

Professional-level physical training for wildland firefighters and others.

Yesterday the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center’s Facebook page linked to an organization in Jackson, Wyoming that trains tactical athletes, wildland firefighters, and other individuals. The Mountain Tactical Institute has numerous training programs and plans. Their customers can either purchase a written plan, or train in the company’s gym or “sport-specific cycle”. In light of the two recent serious injuries during physical training on the first and second day of the fire season, some of their guiding principles could be applicable in training wildland firefighters, especially those new to the job.

We are not affiliated with the company, but you may be interested in some excerpts from the company’s website:

Strong Swift Durable develops strength and conditioning which transfers to performance and durability on the mountain, battlefield, urban streets, and fire grounds.

All that matters is outside performance.

Our facility in Wyoming is a Strength and Conditioning Laboratory. At any one time we can be working with climbers aiming for Fitz Roy, female soldiers gunning for Ranger School, fire fighters developing a fitness assessment, airmen trying for PJ Selection, professional ultra runners building offseason strength, stock brokers with a GORCUK Challenge on the horizon and teenage girls preparing for soccer season.


  • High Relative Strength By “Relative Strength” we mean strength per bodyweight. This isn’t a power lifting regimine focused on how much you can lift. Not is it a body building program designed to make you look good. Our strength training is designed to get you as strong as possible without significant weight gain.
  • Rapid Movement Over Ground Sprinting, mid-distance running, hiking uphill under load. We want to get you faster.
  • High Work Capacity for Short/Intense Events We want to replace the pokey V-4 engine in your chest with a high horsepower, V-8.
  • Stamina for multiple events over a long duration. Stamina for a long event. Be able to go long and hard on day 1. Be able to do it again on day 2.
  • Mental Fitness Mental Fitness can be trained, and de-trained, just like physical fitness.
  • Durability It’s hard to stay fit and enjoy outside the gym sports and recreation when you’re hurt. We use strength training, core strength training and focused mobility work to keep our athletes in the gym, on the field, and in the mountains.

  • Embrace and celebrate the fact that soldiers/LE officers/Firefighters are professional athletes.
  • Articulate the responsibility Tactical Athletes have to themselves to be fit for duty – it’s link to survivability.
  • Articulate the responsibility Tactical Athletes have to their families to be fit for duty – their survivability.
  • Articulate the responsibility Tactical Athletes have to their partners and teammates to be fit for duty    tactical performance and survivability.
  • Fitness Improves Everything.

(For the Unit Fitness Leader)

You’ll need at most two types of group programming to get started – an OnRamp training plan to get guys spooled up, and daily training for everyone else.


Fat tactical athletes aren’t funny. “Legacy” members aren’t “special snowflakes” and experience is no substitute for fitness. No “slow” fires exist for unfit firefighters. No “slow” bullets exist for unfit soldiers and LE officers. Understand the poisonous effect unfit members and a poor fitness culture has on unit morale. Speak with actions and words. Be steadfast and direct, but never righteous or indignant, and never preach. Be a quiet, steadfast, professional.


No one can force or convince grown adult men and women to fix their diet and start a training program. Don’t let unit commanders force an adult parenting role upon you by sending you unfit, unhealthy members and expecting you to give them self discipline. You can be a resource for diet/training info, offer encouragement, and invite them to join the group onramp or regular training group, but you cannot make them attend or train.

Nebraska Forest Service acquires advanced wildland fire simulator

Above: Nebraska Forest Service Simtable. Screen grab from the KOTO video below.

We have written before about the Simtable that can project a spreading fire and an aerial photo onto a sand table that has been sculpted to resemble the topography for that area. It is an excellent training tool to simulate a potential fire or an actual on-going fire.

In this report from KDUH/KOTA the system recently acquired by the Nebraska Forest Service is described, including features that were new to me.

Below is an excerpt from the news coverage:

…NFS Fire Management Specialist Seth Peterson says the simulation gives fire officials advance knowledge of what they would need to do if a fire breaks out in a certain area. It could also make a big impact during a real wildfire event. A smartphone app for firefighters in the field can add valuable, on-site information to the simulator to make it react in real time.

“That iphone will know where he is on the map, and the IC (Incident Commander) will be able to see exactly where that firefighter is on the line. The firefighter can then update off his phone and basically feed the IC all the information he needs to be making all the decisions, without even being on the fire,” says Peterson…

Each simulator costs about $25,000.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “simulation”.

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Tactical Decision Making course removed from NWCG curriculum — again

Yarnell Hill fire
Air Attack’s photo of the Yarnell Hill Fire at 7:24 p.m. on June 29, 2013, after it had been burning for 26 hours. The next day, June 30, the fire intensity increased dramatically, trapping and killing 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The S-336 training course, Tactical Decision Making in Wildland Fire, has been removed from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group curriculum. Mark Jones, chair of the Operations and Training Committee, signed a document on October 14, 2015 discarding the course.

S-336 is no longer required for any position in the interagency Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide (PMS 310-1), however the U.S. Forest Service requires it for their Strike Team Leaders.

The Committee’s argument for eliminating Tactical Decision Making was that other courses have scenario-driven training, including S-230 (Crew Boss), S-231(Engine Boss), S-236 (Heavy Equipment Boss), S-330 (Strike Team Leader), and S-339 (Division/Group Supervisor).

S-336 was also removed in 1993 by the NWCG, citing tactical training that was included in S-230 and S-330. By 1999 it was reinstated  because “incident management personnel and trainers in incident management believed that S-336 was a valuable training tool”.

The original name of the course was Fire Suppression Tactics but in 2004 it was changed to Tactical Decision Making in Wildland Fire.

Wyoming: 200 firefighters participate in wildland fire training

WYOFIRE training

Wyoming State Forestry hosted their annual wildland fire training again this year at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, in Guernsey, Wyoming. They cleverly call it WYOFIRE, which comes from “Wyoming Fire Incident Readiness Exercise”. The objectives are to train and qualify wildland firefighters in Incident Command System positions and to provide the opportunity for firefighters to familiarize themselves with the processes of reporting to incidents, actions while at incidents, and how to properly demobilize.

This year there were about 200 registered for the May 16 through 18 event. We visited on May 17 and observed live fire training by personnel from Rochford FD (South Dakota), Camp Guernsey FD (Wyoming), and Big Laramie Valley VFD (Woming).

All of the photos were taken by Bill Gabbert for Wildfire Today.

WYOFIRE training

WYOFIRE training
National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crews trained, dropping water from buckets.
WYOFIRE training
Drafting water out of a lake.

Continue reading “Wyoming: 200 firefighters participate in wildland fire training”

Wildfire briefing, May 6, 2014

Wildfire tabletop exercise

A for-profit company that provides online exercises and training for emergency managers is making available at no charge a tabletop online wildfire exercise. The Disaster Resistant Communities Group will host the exercise on May 31. All participants will need to register in advance and should allow enough time to become familiar with information that will be distributed before the exercise begins. The company recommends that at least three people from each organization take part, acting as a disaster planning and response team.

US Forest Service Announces National Forest Fire Management Officer of the Year

Gary Brown, Chair of the National Forest Fire Management Officer Committee, recently announced the recipients of the 2012 and 2013 National Forest Fire Management Officer of the Year selections.

Selected for 2012 was Bob Lippincott from the Nez Perce-Clearwater NF of central Idaho, R1. Bob was recognized for his effort that year in leading the forest through an extremely difficult fire season that included multiple type I and II IMTs, supporting fire operations on other forests and regions and for leading the forest and cooperators through a difficult time following the loss of one of our fellow firefighters.

Selected for 2013 is Arlen Cravens from the Shasta-Trinity NF in northern California, R5. Arlen retired this past winter and is being recognized for his life-time achievements as a Canadian and Redding smokejumper, and a career in fire that culminated as a Fire Staff Officer. Arlen was always a student of fire and promoted sound risk and leadership principles.

CAL FIRE Battalion Chief sought in murder

A CAL FIRE Battalion Chief is suspected in the murder of his girlfriend in the Sacramento area. An instructor at the agency’s training academy at Ione, California, 55-year old Battalion Chief Orville Fleming, is being sought following the stabbing death of 26-year old Sarah Jane Douglas on Thursday, May 1. His CAL FIRE pickup was found abandoned Thursday night in Elk Grove, a suburb just south of Sacramento. A ground and air search was conducted by local law enforcement authorities and CAL FIRE law enforcement officers. Some of those officers are providing security at the academy in case Chief Fleming shows up there. The suspect is known to own firearms and is thought to be armed.

He was a firefighter with the city of Madera for three years when the city contracted with CAL FIRE for fire protection and was promoted to fire captain in 2001 and to battalion chief in 2012. He has been an instructor at Ione for about 10 years.

Throwback Thursday

Let’s take a look six years back to see what we were writing about March 23-29, 2008.

Highlights of the 2008 Annual Wildland Fire Refresher Training.

Wildland Firefighter RefresherTraining 2008
–The After Action Review was released for the Santiago Fire, which was in Orange County, California.

–The U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention Technician convicted of starting the 137,000-acre Hayman fire in Colorado was re-sentenced to 15 years probation and 1,500 hours of community service.

–A spokesman for North Carolina Division of Forest Resources in Raleigh, said rangers from the division have been allowing a fire to burn on an 18-acre uninhabited island because it doesn’t pose a threat to people or properties.

–A B-1 bomber while landing at Ellsworth Air Force Base had an in-flight emergency and may have dropped burning debris near the base that started multiple wildfires.

–There was an update on the trial of the Crew Boss and Type 3 Incident Commander on the Thirtymile Fire near Winthrop, Washington in 2001. Four members of his crew were overrun by fire and died.

GAO studies moving US Forest Service to Dept. of the Interior.

Poway, Calif., Firefighters Were Ordered To Not Fight Fires.