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A Case for Using Wildland Firefighter Mission & Vision Statements to Determine a Firefighter's ETHICS
Mission: What it is that you do.
What you want to become.

In the fire service we usually see the mission as saving lives, property and resources.
The vision is not usually evident.

After working my way up the ladder from crewman to hotshot superintendent to D.F.M.O., I look back and review my own personal M/V's. I found that my Mission and Vision statements helped me understand and develop what I call my firefighting ethics.

Leadership skills are necessary but without a set of ethics, they can lead to disaster. In reviewing burnover situations I always wonder about the leader's ethics. Was the envelope being pushed?

I found that not knowing the person's ethics was a worry to me because I could not know how far the envelope would be pushed.

To me the order of importance in the development of a professional firefighter is:
  1. Human element, a mission and vision statement reveals ethics.
  2. Acquiring a knowledge base.
  3. Training. Useful and performance based training.
  4. Experience. Know wildland fire behavior before OJT assignments.
  5. Personal track record tells all. Do not ignore it.

I am interested in the readers' thoughts about how to describe a professional. I offer this as material for comment.

I will begin with posting a vision statement that I formulated which describes my own past ethics statement that I now consider a hazard.

A Hotshot Superintendent's Mission:

To engage the fire as in a contest. To do everything possible to control the fire.
Success or failure is accepted as part of the days work. To become physically
fit and hardened to the rigors of the life of a Hotshot. A Hotshot can work to
exhaustion with pleasure. A Hotshot can endure much discomfort and pain
without complaint. If we should be injured or die, we are going to be considered
heroes. The leaders of the Hotshots have attained the highest status of any
firefighter. The crew is awestruck with the crew leaders and the leaders
work to keep their admiration and trust.

The Vision:

To become the best crew in the world. To be known for our toughness,
tenaciousness, grit and discipline. Only good will result from our efforts.
No one will be seriously injured or killed.

What is wrong with this picture? I had good leadership skills but my M&V statement reveals that my ethics were what I now would deem incorrect. I was lucky to grow through that phase and come out with no fatalities. Some years later my old crew was burned over and more than half of them were killed. Was the personal mission and vision of the leadership a contributing factor? I think so. Would a M&V statement written honestly by the overhead have reveled a deficiency? That would be one way to know the ethics of the leadership. Is there an effective mentor for any of those placed in leadership positions? I did not see any supervisory mentoring from my Hotshot days on.

I worry most about the ethics of the leader when I send out folks on a wildland fire assignment.

Ab, if this is something of interest to the body of readers then I will follow up with my revised M&V statement at a later time that shows a change in my ethics as I grew up.



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