An Overwhelming Emotional and Sobering Experience

Redding IHC Crewmember – 2015

Participating in the 2015 South Canyon Staff Ride was a truly rewarding opportunity and one that I am grateful to have been given. The lessons that I learned will carry further into my life, both professionally and personally.

Redding 6

This staff ride really was unique in that the SMEs were people who had actually been a part of the original event. They come back year-after-year to share their stories, living history right from their mouths. All of the conference group leaders and support staff go the extra mile to help facilitate the best learning environment possible. The pre-study materials and the integration night were both valuable components that really make the most out of the event. I cannot imagine a more in-depth approach to learning than I experienced on this staff ride.

Participating in facilitated tactical decision games allowed for me to really see the scenario unfold and how my decision process would progress. Communicating with the people in your group and working through problems, mitigating them in real time, utilizing tools like LCES and the IRPG was a valuable hands-on approach.

As I sat at the tree that marks the top of the West Flank Fireline I asked myself: “What more could I do to prepare myself for this situation? Physically, did I train hard enough to give myself the best chance of escape? Mentally, do I challenge myself to think about complex and evolving incidents? Emotionally, how do I handle stress and fatigue? What could I do to become more resilient to these factors of decision making?”

As a crewmember of the Redding IHC, I was assigned extra study into the movements of the various smokejumpers assigned to the South Canyon Fire. Giving extra focus to one particular group really allowed me to explore another perspective. I also had the opportunity to present a briefing to the entire participant group at the “Lunch Spot” which focused on what the smokejumpers were doing during a set timeframe. I chose to focus on the human factors that I could draw out from the pre-study materials, because I felt like they often get overlooked as we analyze the tactical decisions made on fires.

Moving across such a historical piece of ground was at times overwhelmingly emotional and brought further into perspective the need to make sound and timely decisions. Putting my boots in the footprints of wildland fire history was a sobering experience. Looking at the crosses on the hill reminds me to be thankful for all we have learned from the sacrifices of those who came before us. We operate in a high-risk environment frequently to protect people, property and natural resources. It is not simply a job but a way of life and I take pride in my contributions.

I benefitted greatly from participating in this staff ride and am appreciative for all of the people that believe enough in the future fire leaders to make it possible.

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