Rat-Holing Resources: An Ethical Dilemma With Major Consequences.
A topic that can't please everyone.
Staging on your own forest is like being at the swimming pool on the hottest day of the year and not being able to do a cannonball into the deep end. Staging on your own forest and doing project work while active fires burn is like eating warm celery at a pizza party while sitting on a wet sandy cushion with hemorrhoids. It’s not fun.
A lot of folks in the fire world know that this is an unsavory reality. It happens all over the country, in multiple regions, and on multiple forests. When it really comes down to it, it’s a very unpopular thing to do. If it happens to your crew it’s definitely a hit to morale. There are some out there who will make the argument that this is a necessary action. Timelines need to be met, funding needs to be used, and so on and so forth. So really when it comes down to it, are the folks making these decisions weighing the morale issues or even retention issues that could occur, just to get some project acres done?
Or perhaps it’s done to “rat hole” resources and crews in an area so that other regions don’t scoop them up? Maybe it’s just a bitter angry Forest Supervisor? It can be all of these things. Overall however, the result is usually the same. Crew morale takes a hit, folks start talking about retention, and bottom line… people see this as individuals “messing with their money“. This may not be what’s intended and is usually a communication issue which I discuss later on.
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If you are not in the fire industry you may be thinking to yourself “The Hotshot Wake Up it’s just on another tangent“. However, a few days ago I put out a poll asking if it was unethical to stage crews on their own forest, make them do project work, and not let them go to active fires? 2,100 folks responded to this poll and the final results were 91% thought this was an unethical thing to do. This leaves 9% of the wildfire world saying they don’t see any problem with this at all. Someone messaged me shortly after the results came out and said, “well, we know at least 9% of your followers are for supervisors, project managers, or FMO’s”.
The other thing that this poll told us is that this isn’t an isolated occurrence. Firefighters from multiple regions reached out to me and asked if I was referencing their region or forest. I was not referencing any particular region or forest. It is very clear to me now that when six different regions ask if you’re talking about them, then this is not only widespread but unpopular in every area around the country. So let’s start piecing this apart. Let’s start with the reasons why resources and crews would be staged on their forest in the middle of August to do project work. Then lets discuss the morale issues this creates and the most likely unintended consequences of it all.
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