We’ve received tragic news tonight about the line-of-duty death of three wildland firefighters in the Okanogan country of Washington state. At this hour, the specifics of the incident are not yet available. I know you will join me and all of us in the wildland community in pausing in the day ahead for a silent moment of thought and respect for these individuals, their families, their coworkers and all who have served with them on the fireline there in Washington and across the West.
I’m writing tonight, just after learning of this incident, to ask you to take a moment as you end your shift, and as you start your day tomorrow, to review your awareness and focus on safety, and ensure that you have safety consciousness and mindfulness in your mind and in your actions. I know this evening’s fatalities will make us all pause and look inward. I’d like each of us to take a moment to translate that pause into the way we think about how we do our jobs, whether on a fire or supporting the agency in other ways.
Over the next 48 hours, weather forecasts call for the kind of conditions we saw last week that led to multiple blow-ups in eastern Oregon. High temperatures and low humidities are pervasive. And after a week at this pace, we’re all showing signs of fatigue. That’s just natural.
With these conditions around us, no tactic or strategy is worth compromising safety. For all ODF units and on incidents currently underway, I ask that you create time and space, in the best way that is productive for you, to talk about and define what you will do today and each day to elevate safety thinking and actions into all that you do in your day, and all that we do with our landowner and contractor partners and all cooperators.
More to come as we learn more.
Doug Decker, Oregon State Forester