"I left a 21 year fire management career following an ear/throat/nose
infection that stopped my heart shortly. Follow-up surgery removed a
blockage of dust, ash, lava dust, pollen, etc. from oxygen chambers in my
head. Doctors thought wildland fire was a sort of dumb career to
"On my first day in the Regional Office I received 5 direct verbal and
written marching orders from Regional Forester Paul Barker:
1. Do not let the 1987 accidents happen again!
2. Develop an Accident/Incident investigation response procedure with
accident investigator training.
3. Develop a Region Accident/Incident Database (RAID) system
4. Develop top to bottom Safety & Health Information Exchange Network.
5. Advise RF Team, ARF's and Forest Supervisors when compliance and
major Occupational Safety and Employee Health and Welfare problems
Of these 5, the first four are in compliance and operational.
The 5th one is broke. Its failure indicates #1 may not stay
achievable, and if #'s 4 and 5 collapse, history will repeat itself.
what is wrong? In today's cutback government pressure, and cold
cooperate line to downsize, combine jobs, increased work loads with less
work force, shrinking budgets and more laws and regulations to comply
with, the open door policy and active out in the woods approach, upper
level management had has slowly closed its door and become silent in
areas of Safety and Health for employee accident prevention and
well-being. Bottom line, low dollar mind set to run operations at the
bare bone, cutting training recertification, using own protective
equipment, not performing fitness medicals, etc., in short cutting
corners in employee safety that in upper management minds is valid, as it
follows cutback management."
To make it worse continued organizational changes and cuts have
created a non-trust and unsafe work environment for employees."
"More and more stress claims are being filed and if the agency created
the emotional and unsafe condition and asked the employee to work in
that condition we can expect accidents and claims..."
"Attempts to make presentations on the concern are put offer by to many
other topics on agenda and written papers go unanswered."
"Region 5 is headed towards repeating the 1987 accident record, but its
not going to come from all fire operations. Its going to be workplace
violence, employees performing a hazardous duty and being emotionally
distracted, worn out equipment, lack of Personal Protective Equipment,
training or medical problems undetected."
In his own words, the retired Lyle Shook.