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Wildland Firefighter 
Quotes & Aphorisms to Live By
Ab, With all of the hubbub about how dangerous or not our job is, I thought a few quotes would be thought provoking. Some are serious and some are for fun. Hope some others will be forthcoming from some of the lurkers and regular contributors. Later, Backburnfs    (12/16/03)
Paul Gleason “Become a Student of Fire” Backburnfs
Gordon Graham "Predictable is Preventable" Backburnfs
Chaytor Mason "The only time you learn from the mistakes of another is when they end in tragedy." Backburnfs
Ed Pulaski "The first man who tries to leave this tunnel, I will SHOOT." Backburnfs
Dirty Harry "Do you feel lucky, punk?" Backburnfs
Viscount Cecil "Prudence which degenerates into timidity is very seldom the path to safety." Backburnfs
Jack Handy "If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid seeing yourself in the mirror, because I bet that's what REALLY throws you into a panic." Backburnfs
General George S. Patton "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." Backburnfs
an Incident Commander "Friendly fire isn't!"  djchief
Homer Simpson Don't worry boy, it's a controlled burn.

I don't know the chemical reaction, but fire made it good.


Richard Rothermel "The truth about plume dominated fire is that it's like a forward pass in football. Three things can happen and two of them are bad."
for what the 3 things are, see TS 12/18/03

Tahoe Terrie

Clint Eastwood "We've all got it coming."

"Deserve's got nothing to do with it."
Charlie Drag-Mcleod! "Never forget that your apparatus was built by the lowest bidder."

"When you have secured an area, don't forget to tell the fire."

"A rapidly escalating fire has the right of way."

"If the fire is in range, so are you."

"Radios will fail as soon as you need air support desperately."

"Anything you can do can get you burned, including not doing anything at all."

"Professional firefighters are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs."

"If it's stupid but works, it isn't stupid."

And finally, "Murphy was a firefighter."
my Old Hotshot Supt. "Hey stupid, don't get so excited... this fire's not an emergency... it's our job!" SoCalCapt
lesser-known 20th century philosopher
- Eraticlese
If Columbus had known for sure where he was going, we'd all be wearing saris and turbans.

If it can't be delegated, it's not worth doing.

Conservative thinking gave us the Pinto. Radical thinking gave us the moon.

Unpredictable maneuvers saved many a ship from torpedoes.

Did you ever notice how very few people living on social security are really secure, or for that matter, social?

Close enough!

The hardest decisions are the ones you are held accountable for.

The magnitude of management's error is proportional to the number of innocent punished. --from Eraticlese' cynic period

Leaders serve the people; bureaucrats serve the process.

All those gettin' on, get on! All those gettin' off, get off!

"Not until it's perfect" means never.

Breaking tradition is like breaking out of an eggshell; it's the first step to growth.

"We the unwilling, led by the unknown, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful." --posted on Eraticlese' refrigerator.

A person assigned responsibility without authority is termed "the scapegoat".

There is a significant difference between a leader and a cheerleader.

It is always good to think; it is not always good to tell people what you think.

Those who would steal liberty would start with freedom of speech.
Old Fire Guy
my EMT supt
AJ Hicks
“No rescuing the rescuers.”

“No amusing obituaries.”

Nerd on the Fireline
unknown About needing to have a good reason for doing what we do in the fire service, not just because somebody asks us to do it:

"Did you ever see a cat skeleton in a tree?"
vfd cap'n
unknown "We the unknowing, lead by the unwilling have been doing so much, for so long, with so little, that now we are qualified to do absolutely anything with nothing." 

That is the about the way some volunteer fire departments are staffed, financed, and operated. This is a salute to the V.F.D. guys and gals.
Retired L.A.V.E.
Admiral Halsey "There are no great men, only ordinary men, who have met extraordinary challenges." (ditto for women) Tahoe Terrie
My Old Engine Captain "This is an exciting job; don't get excited." NorCal Tom
My Old Engine Captain "Safe firefighters are smart firefighters." NorCal Tom
My Old FMO "The very worst fire plan is no plan (the next worse is two plans)." NorCal Tom
Von Molke "No plan survives contact with the enemy." FC180
General George Patton "No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair." FC180
unknown "If your plan relies on aircraft you need another plan." FC180
Winston Churchill “I ought to have known, my advisors ought to have known and I ought to have been told, and I ought to have asked.” FC180
Alan Brunacini, chief of the Phoenix Fire Department Vomiting firefighters are ugly firefighters.

If the red lights on your truck are melting, you parked too close.

Don't stand next to the guy who's always bandaged.

And my personal favorite: 
If you panic, be sure to run in the correct direction.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower "A plan is nothing; planning is everything." (on the value of planning). We use this during multi-agency training to encourage members of all agencies effected by the plan to be involved in the planning process. Hunter
& FC180
General George Patton "Courage is fear holding on a minute longer." Batchmaster
unknown "Nobody ever avoided tripping over something without first acknowledging
that it was possible that they could fall."
Will Rogers "Good judgment is based on experience, and a lot of that comes from
bad judgment."
unknown "In an emergency situation, you don’t rise to the occasion; you fall back to your level of training." Nerd on the Fireline
Larry Wright "Very little on a fire rolls uphill." Mellie
Old and Bold Firefighter "Never go into a fire with someone braver than you." AH
Robert Ingersoll  "In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments - there are consequences." JR
Norman MacLean "The fire didn't have organizational problems." (from his account of Mann Gulch in Young Men and Fire) vfd cap'n
Original Ab When asked by a youngster what crew he should join to fight a lot of fire:
"No matter which crew you select, the other crews will have more overtime."
unknown "The longer you wait to make a decision, the fewer options you will have!"

"The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been achieved"

"In the last 70 years of wildland fire fighting, we have not invented a new method to severely injure or kill ourselves."

Abelson, 1972 "We are very good at finding reasons for what we do, but not very good at doing what we find reasons for." RLL
Chuck Yeager "Always leave yourself a way out." RLL
Diane Vaughn, The Challenger Disaster "But they emerged from the teleconference having accepted increased risk once more. Following the rules, doing their job, they made a mistake. With all procedural systems for risk assessment in place, they made a disastrous decision." RLL
lifelong Manson WA resident 2002 (Deer Point Fire) "You can't do much to stop it when you're looking up at the flames." RLL
Curt Braun, Ph.D and others before him Always remember "You don't know what you Don't Know." RLL
Unknown "No piece of ground is worth a person's life." Richard
Unknown "Expect the best. Prepare for the worst." OB
Unknown "Success is never final, failure is never fatal; it's courage that counts." JM
Mark Twain "Courage is resistance to fear, the mastery of fear -- not the absence of fear." JM
Henry Ford "Whether you think you can or think you can't -- you are right." JM
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach "In youth we learn, in old age we understand." JM
Rudyard Kipling "The strength of the wolf is in the pack, the strength of the pack is in the wolf." SoCal Capt
Rene Dubois, ecologist, writer, Pulitzer prize winner "Are you willing to give up who you are, for who you can become?" mtndv8
originally by Verne Hill, made famous by AT pilot Walt Darran "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten." Abercrombie
Dean Dysart, Ventura County Fire Department (retired) "If you can see the incident commander’s ass instead of his face, he is in the wrong place." <chuckle>
Joe Stutler "Fires all go out eventually." Mellie
My dad "Tell the truth, tell it early, tell it yourself." Mellie
Jane Austen to a hotshot "What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance." Mellie
From an old FCO "Never take any fire personally. You aren't the one that made the woods flammable." Dave
Unknown Often said by many after another court ruling stopping a thinning project:
"All fuels get treated eventually -- one way or another."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." Tahoe Terrie
Sophocles "Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud." Jason
H. Jackson Brown, Jr. "Never underestimate your power to change yourself; never overestimate your power to change others." Jason
Ralph Waldo Emerson "For the resolute and determined there is time and opportunity." Jason
unknown If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burnt. Burnt
Honore de Balzac "Playing with fire is bad for those who burn themselves. For the rest of us, it is a very great pleasure.”  Nerd on the Fireline
unknown "People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it." Mellie
Bertrand Russell "Most people would rather die than think" BP
Yoda, Jedi Master
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, circa 1980
"Do or do not. There is no try."
Colin Powell "The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise." Tim
Old Chinese proverb “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.” Dan Kleinman in a conversation
Some Ancient Greek or John Wendt Vita brevis; terra larga. - Life is short; the land is long. John Wendt
yactac "Situation Awareness" or "SA" used in the Leadership, Human Factors and CRM context....   The constant re-evaluation of the environmental inputs in order to make one’s perception of reality come as close as possible to matching reality. yactac
unknown (anyone know who?) Situational Awareness is how you get a passing grade at the School of Hard Knocks. Steve, LCES
NorCal Tom Recognizing my mistakes and owning them gets me to the right choice. JT
Will Rogers (who would have done well sharing his pearls of wit and wisdom on a Wildland Fire Team) If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in.
If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.
Don't squat with your spurs on.
If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.
After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him... The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.
Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
There's two theories to arguin' with a woman. Neither one works.
Never slap a man who's chewin' tobacco.
When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.
When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.
Never miss a good chance to shut up.
Larry I.
My dad With respect to posting fire lookouts: "Trust your friends, but cut the cards." Class C Sagebrush Faller
Don Studebaker "When you lose your head, the next thing is your ass." Tahoe Terrie
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun "Chieftains must teach their Huns well that which is expected of them. Otherwise, Huns will probably do something not expected of them". Misery Whip
wisdom from the Chinese Song dynasty (960-1279 AD) "Safety is not the safety of one day, nor is danger the danger of one day. Both safety and danger come from gradual development."

"A superior person is one who when safe does not forget about danger, and who in times of order does not forget about disorder."
Misery Whip
James Reason, the risk management guru "Error-prone people do, of course, exist, but they seldom remain at the hazardous sharp end for very long. Quite often, they get promoted to management". Misery Whip
Joe Friday "Just the facts, m'am, nothing but the facts." Lobotomy
Class C Sagebrush Faller Don't leave your SA behind, even for a minute, in life or on a fire. As soon as you do, life will sneak up on you and bite you in the ass.

I'm just lucky that this happened in a parking lot, and not on a fire.

Stanley nominated these.
What many seem to be asking... Got SA? (Situational Awareness) Ab.
General Patton "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan later." Misery Whip
The Art of War, Sun Tzu "So there are three ways in which a civil leadership causes the military (USFS) trouble. When a civil leadership unaware of the facts tells its armies (wildland fire managers) to advance when it should not, or tells its armies to retreat when it should not, this is called tying up the armies. When the civil leadership is ignorant of military affairs but shares equally in the government of the armies, the soldiers (firefighters) get confused. When the civil leadership is ignorant of military maneuvers but shares equally in the command of the armies, the soldiers hesitate. Once the armies are confused and hesitant, trouble comes from competitors (fires). This is called taking away victory by deranging the military." Misery Whip
T. S. Eliot "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one
can go."
Hugh Carson
Hunter S Thompson "Buy the ticket, take the ride." Hugh Carson
Miles Davis "Do not fear mistakes, there are none." Hugh Carson
Voltaire, but re-popularized in the early days of the USofA by Ben Franklin and other patriots I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it! Pyroman
Will Rogers About bureaucratic process:
"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
Tahoe Terrie
My dad "If you always cover your bases, you never have to cover your a$$." FireBill
Benjamin Franklin "We must all hang together, or we shall surely hang separately." Lobotomy
Susan B Anthony "Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, can never bring about reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation." Misery Whip
Norman Schwarzkopf “Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.” Strider
a favorite of Gina Zalunardo who painted this in bright purple and magenta on her bedroom wall; originally by Satchel Paige "Work like you don't need the money, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watchin'." Cindy Zalunardo
Robert L. Dutton "Fire prevention is a whole lot easier than fire clean-up. You can unwet, but you can't unburn." R2 localyokel
Petronious Arbitar, 210 BC"

"We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing. And what a wonderful method it can be for creating an illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."

unknown Your actions speak so loudly I can't hear what you're saying... danfromord
C. Caldwell, 1979, fire near Placerville "Never fight fire from ego" Willy
DIVS briefing- Shasta-T, 1987 "Have cognition before ignition" Willy
unknown "Excuses are the nails that built the house of failure" Firecat from FKU
unknown oldtimer Fires give the test just ahead of the lesson. BLM Bob
Ray Quintanar
(R5 Chief Officers Mtg, 03/06)
If you want to know what your future holds, you can define it; but to get there, you'll have to engage in the present. Mellie
James Reason “Human error is a consequence not a cause. Errors are shaped by upstream workplace and organizational factors….. Only by understanding the context of the error can we hope to limit its reoccurrence”. Mellie
Dr.Seuss "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Mellie
prayer or exhortation "Omnis Cedo Domus"
Everyone Goes Home
from Zimm's email
Jim Smith "Always try sugar before gun powder." FB
Jim Smith "It's not the depth of the water that kills you, it's the water. More relevant, it's not the size of the fire that gets you, it's the fire." FB
Mike Breeggemann, Squad Boss, Black Mountain HS, 2006; died 12/3/06 When you get to a fire, there will be alot of personnel there, Government and Private. Many people with differing opinions, skill levels and work ethic. You look around and decide who your people are going to be, and then you go and fight the fire... Black Mountain Crew
Old Boots "Never trust a fat man in a clean fire shirt." Old Boots
Alice in Wonderland 'Curiouser and curiouser!' vfd cap'n
Alice in Wonderland `But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `We're all mad here. I'm mad.
You're mad.'
`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
vfd cap'n
Alice in Wonderland `Now, I give you fair warning,' shouted the Queen, stamping on the ground as she spoke; `either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no
time! Take your choice!'
vfd cap'n
Alice in Wonderland 'Sentence first -- verdict afterwards.' vfd cap'n
Theodore Roosevelt (1891) "...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." Domaque
Theodore Roosevelt (1894) "Criticism is necessary and useful; it is often indispensable; but it can never take the place of action, or be even a poor substitute for it. The function of the mere critic is of very subordinate usefulness. It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger." Domaque
unknown Training produces the skills;
Circumstance provides the opportunity;
Experience instills true knowledge.
Shared by an old CRWB a long time ago... Fireline truth: "If you are bored on a fire and you come up with an 'Idea' that might be fun, think twice about doing it. Usually the 'Idea' is a bad one." Paul
Dr. Seuss "Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one." fireuseman
SLR where there are lizards, there are snakes (leave the wildlife alone) SLR
SLR if you can't fix it, don't break it (chain saws and pumps, come to mind) SLR
SLR you don't know if you don't try (usually related to burning out) SLR
SLR thanks for the MREs (sung like Frank Sinatra's little ditty) SLR
Voltaire "It's dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." Midwest Fire Guy
Craig Halker, BC ret “Delegate ruthlessly” sur2baja
Mike Weddington, BC ret “Knowledge without experience is trivia, Trivia without verification is bull-s***!” sur2baja
unknown Educational times on the fire are not always fun times. Socal Dispatcher
unknown If you don't have a plan, don't add additional resources. Socal Dispatcher
unknown Experience and education are like oregano -- they must be mixed with a lot of other stuff to be good. Socal Dispatcher
unknown It is difficult to get just a little bit exited. Socal Dispatcher
unknown Some days on the fireline the best it gets is so-so. Socal Dispatcher
unknown If the forest burns don't take it personally; you didn't make the woods combustible and you didn't start the bloomin' thing. Socal Dispatcher
unknown If looking at a fire makes you crazy, don't look at it. Socal Dispatcher
Don't think that you are communicating just because you are talking.
Socal Dispatcher
General John R. Galvin "Good Leaders understand history. Leadership without a sense of history can only be instinctive and thereby limited in its scope." Strider
Ivan Cupp - Safety Officer "Remember, it's a very short distance between 'OK' and 'OH HELL'." JC
John Caffin - Safety Officer "It's so dry, we're just a dragging muffler away from chaos!"

"There are no secrets in the Forest Service, just a time delay."

Lewis Kearney - IC "Whatever you do, Don't strut!" JC
Samantha McGarity "It may take a great deal of courage, but unless we are willing to commit our actions to our beliefs, we may never realize how great an impact our efforts might make in improving the quality of life for others." MR
Harry Truman It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. BDU Steve
Unknown When admiring the light at the end of the tunnel, be sure it's not an oncoming train. firetraveler29
Cheyenne saying "A danger foreseen, is half-avoided." Cheyenne FF
Mellie "It's hard to manage risk, or realize that you're distracting others from managing risk if you haven't experienced the risk yourself." (from theysaid 3/16/09) pyro
female dispatcher's response to a wishy-washy ground resource "A fire is like being pregnant, either you have one or you don't" norcal firegirl
Gene Sadler "You didn't start the fire, it's not your fault. Just do the best you can to make it better." Dave S
Vince Lombardi for the stragglers in the morning: "If you're early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late. If you're late, don't bother showing up at all." Brian
John Wooden "Be quick, but don't hurry." MPS
a fairly notorious Norcal HS supt. (70's vintage) "I think that anyone who says that he can predict a fire season with any accuracy has to be either absolutely brilliant, or God's own fool and I'm not either one. So I'm not even gonna try." Willy
Dee Hock, founder of VISA "Simple clear purpose and principles give rise to complex intelligent behavior.
Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple stupid behavior."
Edy Williams-Rhodes Quick formula for effective situational awareness, risk management and leadership:
See it, Say it. Fix it!
Edy Williams-Rhodes
Warren Bennis Managers are people that do things right;
Leaders are people that do the right thing.
Edy Williams-Rhodes
Eleanor Roosevelt It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself. Edy Williams-Rhodes
Mark Twain
20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor; Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Edy Williams-Rhodes
Sidney Dekker “A system cannot learn from failure and punish supposedly responsible individuals or groups at the same time.” Just a Hotshot
Zeke Lunder “When the wind is blowing and the fire is in alignment, you shouldn't need a satellite feed to tell you to get the hell out of dodge, and the time that you are spending looking at your Iphone is time that you'd be better off spending looking, thinking, and looking some more.” from theysaid
Jack Dangermond “You can’t change culture with technology, you change it with education” Fire Geek
Nathaniel Flick “Tactical catastrophes are never the outcome of a single poor decision. Small compromises incrementally close off options until a commander is forced into actions he would never choose freely.” Roadrunner
John Wayne The fire is not discriminating. It burns anything in its path for whatever reason. JS
My AFMO Set the example, don't be the example. BE
My AFMO Manage the fire, don't let the fire manage you. BE
Unknown You manage procedures, you lead people. BE
Unknown Nobody ever calls the fire department because they did something smart. BE
scrawled on back of a traffic sign on HW 101, Mendocino Co. "Mother Nature Bats Last" John Barbour- Battalion 1212 (ret.)
John Barbour, came to me on a fire in an old burn in Humboldt County "When fighting a fire in an old snag patch, stop a think how those snags got there." John Barbour
High Lonesome Whenever you apply a static procedure to a dynamic event, you’re setting yourself up for failure. High Lonesome
Div Chief Bill Clayton, CALFIRE (Ret) “Never trust a Naugie.”
Describing mistrust of those high in an agency who determine policy from their nauhgahide chair (swivel optional)
Pete Pedersen, Fire Chief (Ret) “There is no fire more important than the one that is currently burning.”
Speaking to a political body, defending his decision to send a large amount of resources to a mutual aid incident.
Dan Felix, Division Chief “In fire you can plan everything out to the minute, and a minute before that — everything changes” from an article remembering Esperanza
Kevin Joseph When you think you're smarter than the fire, You're in Trouble. one of the firefighters he mentored
M. Scott Peck Courage is not the absence of fear; but the making of action in spite of fear. Jeremy Lind on CNN
Dan Fiorito To his hotshots: Sit on your hands and do not touch each other. Bored Firefighters are the most dangerous kind.  
  For more good quotes, check out BLM Bob's list of Tactical Truths and Scratch Lines, one-liners shared by wildland firefighters.  

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