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Colorado Firecamp - wildland firefighter training

Fire Origins
Remember. Learn. Share.

On Protection of Towns from Fire — Benjamin Franklin, 1735

On Making Official History Honest — Kent Robert Greenfield, 1954

LCES—a Key to Safety in the Wildland Fire Environment — Paul Gleason, 1991

Attitude Check — Bill Fish, 1995

TriData Phase IV, “Developing a Cooperative Approach to Wildfire Protection” — Charles Perrow, 1998

Lessons From Thirtymile: Transition Fires And Fire Orders — Jerry Williams, 2001

Loop Fire Disaster Brief — November, 1966

1967 Task Force Report

2005 Fire Prevention and Safety grant application


Implementation Plan

Our implementation plan consists of three parts: creation of a web-based archive of entrapment fatality investigation reports, revision of the NWCG “Lessons Learned: Fatality Fire Case Studies” course (PMS-490), and development of a hands-on exercise called “Wildfire Safety Drill: Mobilizing Lessons Learned.”

Colorado Firecamp will create a new, half-time position of Project Director to coordinate the project.

Web-Based Archive

The first part of the plan is for Colorado Firecamp to create a digital archive of investigation reports for 50 wildland fire entrapment fatalities in cooperation with the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center. The archive will be a key feature of the re-designed website of the Lessons Learned Center.

We will hire for a newly created, full-time position of fatality investigation archivist. The archivist and project director will coordinate with the Lessons Learned Center staff and their Student Conservation Association intern to develop the annual work plan. With input from recognized wildfire experts, we will prioritize which reports will be digitized in this year-long performance period. The 50 reports will represent approximately two-thirds of the fatal entrapment incidents during the last 75 years.

Reports for about 15 of these incidents already exist in a usable digital format and can be transferred to the archive with relative ease. These reports are scattered throughout the internet on various agency websites.

Most of these 35 remaining reports are not in an immediately usable format. We have access to at least two sets of computer disks with PDF files of scanned paper copies of reports. We are hopeful that considerable effort may be saved through scanning and optical character recognition software. However, many of these reports will require complete re-typing in a word processing program.

We have budgeted for a laptop computer and digital imaging center for the archivist’s use. With some reports consisting of hundreds of pages and with some incidents having several separate investigation reports, there will be an extensive amount of printing, scanning, and copying.

Our principal deliverable to the Lessons Learned Center will be the 50 fatality investigation reports as electronic files in PDF (portable document, used primarily for downloading and printing) and HTML (hypertext markup, for internet browsing) format. Basically, we would attempt to do for other fires what we have been doing the last year on the Colorado Firecamp website for the Cramer, Point, Cedar and Tuolumne Fires.

The Cramer Fire collection on the Colorado Firecamp website consists of 41 webpages plus a gallery of report photographs, maps and diagrams suitable for use in Powerpoint electronic presentations. The information is arranged such that a casual reader can quickly browse the site and find what interests them.

The intent is not to have an archive merely for sake of having an archive. As Dr. Thackaberry stated in an e-mail review of our proposal:

“When members of the firefighting community consider an archive like this to be an authoritative source, use it, interpret the material in it, and recommend it to others (like on firefighter blogs), this can have a tremendous cultural impact on attitudes.”

The digital archive of reports will also serve as an “open source” research and training development effort. This will facilitate the exchange of ideas, creation of derived works and enhancement of existing firefighter safety materials.

We are calling this effort “open source” training development, like the way that term is used for computer software:

“The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.” — (

Wildland fire training has people who can make use of the knowledge we are gathering. Kelly Close identified them as “…some committed people working on some innovative ideas. ‘Pockets of progressive thinkers,’ as they’ve been sometimes called…” (Close, 2005)

Through websites like and, and annual conferences such as the IAWF Wildland Fire Safety Summit, the capacity exists to bring these people together and share information like never before. Networking and collaboration within the wildfire community occurs at a tremendous pace. It gets things done.

PMS-490 Revision

The second part of our implementation plan is to digitize and update the National Wildfire Coordinating Group course PMS-490, “Lessons Learned: Fatality Fire Case Studies.” We intend to make immediate use of the archive for training development.

The existing course consists of 10 fatality fires are presented in 9 case studies. The current “Lessons Learned” includes these incidents: Bass River (New Jersey), Dude (Arizona), Golden Gate Estates (Florida), Lauder (California), Mack Lake (Michigan), Romero (California), Spanish Ranch (California), Rainbow Springs (Arkansas), Loop (California), and Glen Allen (California).

The existing curriculum includes an instructor guide, a 180-page instructor reference, and three VHS video tapes (total length of 2 hours 22 minutes) available from the NIFC cache in Boise, Idaho for a total cost of about $24.50. Each trainee workbook costs $1.28.

The print materials include “investigation report sections or other documentation regarding each of the nine case studies” that were “selected to provide the essential information that is necessary to present the course.” (PMS-490 Instructor’s Reference introduction)

The print delivery does not give justice to the wealth of the knowledge. The text quality may be best described as fair to poor, as the course developers in 1998 were working with the best available copies of reports. Some incidents were likely excluded from the course because existing report copies were very poor.

Of course, that problem will be remedied through our efforts at converting the reports to digital format. The newly digitized material will be included in the revision of the course materials.

During Fall, 2006, we are proposing to host a 4-day curriculum revision workshop for 30 participants in Salida, Colorado. We will invite the individuals of the original development group to participate. (The late Paul Gleason, developer of the LCES concept, was part of that group.) We intend to add at least 5 new case studies, by enlisting participation from agencies involved.

We have a verbal commitment from the NIOSH fatality investigator from the Cedar and Tuolumne Fires to participate in the workshop. We also intend to invite participation from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and National Fire Academy.

The existing course has no accompanying Powerpoint presentations, as that was not a common practice at the time of development. The course materials will be updated to include them. The course materials will also be updated to include “sand table” exercises for scenarios similar to the case study incidents.

Our budget requests reflects the requirement for meals and lodging for the workshop, video production support, distribution of the complete existing curriculum to each participant in early 2006, and distribution of available new and updated materials prior to the workshop. A digital video camera, digital still camera, and digital video production desktop are required for this effort. A significant portion of the project director’s time will be devoted to coordinating this effort.

The budget request also provides for the PMS-490 course to be presented twice in 2006 (old curriculum in February and new in November) to area firefighters in West Lafayette, Indiana. This will be coordinated to allow the Purdue University evaluation team an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of the revision.

The final course curriculum would be offered back to NWCG without copyright restriction and without charge for inclusion in the NIFC publications cache. The entire course with printed instructor materials would still cost about $25.00. Any fire department or training division could order the course on one or two DVD disks for less than five dollars.

Wildfire Safety Drill

The third part of our “Wildfire Safety Drill: Mobilizing Lessons Learned” will be an annual 2-day exercise dedicated to improving firefighter safety at initial attack and transition fires. The Wildfire Safety Drill will serve as a showcase for the best practices of the annual fireline safety refresher class.

Our first Drill is scheduled for the weekend of April 28-30, 2006. Our goal is to attract 500 firefighters to the event. This will be a hybrid event: part annual safety refresher, part train-the-trainer, part engine mobilization, part type 3 IMT exercise, part dispatcher training, part taskbook opportunity, part memorial, part entrapment survivor safety talk, part WFF fundraiser, part trade show, and part just fun gathering of hundreds of firefighters.

Our theme is “mobilizing lessons learned.” We already have a commitment from Fire Chief Jeff Meston for a presentation by the Novato Fire Protection District about the Cedar Fire tragedy.

The state of South Dakota hosts a similar event hosted by a 45-person type 3 incident management team, with 500 fire engines (250 per day) on a live-fire exercise, complete with helicopter and fixed-wing airdrops. By comparison, we are keeping things simple.

Hands-on training scenarios will be geared toward completion of tasks from position taskbooks, while reinforcing lessons learned from tragedy fires. Incident command scenarios will be based on initial attack, extended attack and transition fires. The more complex scenarios will be developed for one or more Type 3 Incident Management Teams. Each command exercise will have corresponding on-ground scenarios, computer simulations or sand-table exercises for strike team/task force leader, engine/crew boss, firefighter 1 & 2, and dispatch positions. This allows for maximum involvement of firefighters with all levels of training and experience.

Fire shelter deployment drills will be held near locations of the other exercises on Saturday, under a variety of simulated, adverse conditions. This Drill will also serve as a “train-the-trainer” for annual safety refresher. NIFC Annual Safety Refresher materials, accompanied by other Lessons Learned case studies and complete Drill instructor/facilitator materials will be distributed to participants for use with their local departments and home units. A vendor and safety organization trade show will be held in new exhibit building (10,000 square foot area) of the Chaffee County Fairgrounds in Poncha Springs. Wildfire safety talks will be presented both evenings by firefighters involved with wildfire entrapments. Fire Chief Jeff Meston of the Novato (CA) Fire Protection District has already agreed to send representatives to give a 2-hour, in-depth presentation on the 2003 Cedar Fire fatality incident that claimed the life of Engineer Steven Rucker. We will also include a Memorial service for fallen firefighters to be held on Sunday morning in Riverside Park.

The budget request reflects the travel costs for our guest speakers, material and duplication costs for participant hand-outs, and staff involvement for our project director and video production technician. We intend to create a short DVD of the Wildfire Safety Drill, so we can share ideas with others who might be inspired to host similar events in other parts of the country.

The Purdue University evaluation team would attend the Drill as part of their on-going evaluation. Their feedback would be incorporated in the 2007 Wildfire Safety Drill.

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