Organizational Learning & Innovation
In 2016, the US Forest Service initiated small-group safety discussions among members of its wildland firefighting organisation. Known as the Life First National Engagement Sessions, the discussions presented an opportunity for wildland firefighters to address systemic and cultural dysfunctions in the wildland fire system. The Life First initiative included a post-engagement survey in which more than 2600 Forest Service employees provided open-ended feedback. In that qualitative subset of results, survey respondents described four main situations in which wildland firefighters commonly accepted unnecessary exposure to risk, related to driving, mop up, aviation and communication. Findings reveal how firefighters experienced social, political and economic pressures upon and within the wildland fire system. They shared that these perceived pressures and their mission-oriented work culture interacted, transforming otherwise unremarkable work operations into situations of unnecessary exposure to risk.