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Fire Chiefing Lessons That Apply To Life

I've mentioned the Crooks Fire on here several times. It is a serious threat and so we have a massive response to it, larger than normal as best as I can tell for some interesting political reasons. The service area for the Fire Department where I am the chief would be the first stop for devastating home loss. At this point now there's no active flame thankfully but there is plenty of heat interior to the fire line and very heavy winds possible tomorrow, so it is no over.

The number of moving parts here is mind boggling and the world doesn't care that we are a volunteer department and that I am a volunteer chief. That is not a complaint. I've said before that it is a gift to be able to play a role in trying to solve the community's problem.

This morning I had to make a potentially difficult call to a state official. At the start of the fire we may have done something that was procedurally incorrect. I'm actually not sure that we did, it is possible not every piece of information was communicated effectively. I know our guys do think it was procedurally correct but that is the back drop. The list here is my approach to these things as they come up.

    1. The fire department is a source of great fun for me.

    The work here is very important but it's kind of a hobby for me. It also is a sense of life purpose but I want it to be fun and I want it to be fun for the other volunteers. Why would you volunteer with an organization if it wasn't fun and I apply that to myself. Large fires are not fun but the experience as described above is irreplaceable.

    2. Whatever happens, I know ahead of time the outcome won't make me mad or upset.

    Maybe we made a mistake, maybe we didn't. I knew we were not going to resolve it today, that was not the purpose of the call, more like just to acknowledge it and then ask what a next step is for our next large-fire assignment.

    3. I'll just take my shed and keep quiet.

    20 years ago I worked for a brief time at Fisher Investments. The firm had it's own lingo and the term shed was short for woodshed as in get taken to the woodshed as in getting yelled at. When you're the fire chief, you're going to get yelled at every so often, it goes with the territory. Knowing the guy I needed to talk to, getting a shed seemed unlikely but I would not have been caught off guard if this had been a bigger issue than I realized.

    4. Relationships

    Prescott is an interesting area, it is a major hub in the wildland fire world. That was the case even before the Granite Mountain Hotshots perished. Walker is south of Prescott and the area south of Walker is where many dangerous fires start. People care about Walker and points south which makes it helpful when the chief of Walker Fire wants to be involved with the Prescott area fire community which I do. I've been very involved since before I was chief actually.

    For the last 12 or 13 years I've been the face people see from Walker, I literally have a seat at the table with thought leaders in an industry. Generally, people like me in this settings, I've never had anything to prove and I understand my knowledge is limited compared to these colleagues which makes potentially difficult conversations a little easier than they might otherwise be.

    5. It was an easy call

    I knew what needed to be accomplished today which was direction for this next week or two. I made it clear that it would be great if we can get together after the fire season to maybe sort anything out that needs sorting, again this is just procedural stuff. I don't know how upset anyone under me in the department may have gotten earlier in this but I made it clear I have no ax to grind, I do not have it in me to get upset and hold on to that sort of negativity. Just not going to do it.

    The person I needed to talk to, I'd just run into at the first briefing for the incident and we had a great conversation, like you'd expect people who've worked well together for many year to have.

    6. We win more than we lose.

    I don't even know if win/lose is right but we do win more than we lose and I think it is in part for all the stuff mentioned above.

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