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Really Good Reasons Not to Change – Even When You Should

By   /  June 24, 2019  /  2 Comments

It’s not that we need a paradigm shift. It’s that we have some very real things that get in the way. And it’s hard to figure out how to overcome these challenges.

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The desktop computer that serves as the source for everything “On Pasture” is 12 years o
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  • Published: 2 years ago on June 24, 2019
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  • Last Modified: June 30, 2019 @ 9:51 am
  • Filed Under: The Scoop

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.


  1. Paul Nehring says:

    I am reading a newly published book called, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and in the book the author discusses our unwillingness to drop our tools that have become so comfortable to us that they feel like part of who we are…we feel naked without them. It can go to extremes.

    He mentions the tragic Mann Gulch fire in Montana in 1949, and the similar tragedy on Storm King Mt in Colorado in 1994, in which a number of highly trained smoke jumpers lost their lives when a fire suddenly changed and rapidly chased them up ridges. In both cases some of the smoke jumpers were able to make over a ridge and out of harms way.

    In the analysis of both fires it turns out the ones who survived had one thing in common. They dropped their tools. The charred bodies of those who succumbed to the fire were found still holding onto pick axes, and chainsaws and/or carrying heavy backpacks.

    One survivor mentioned how difficult a decision it was for him to drop his chainsaw…he had to fight with himself to do it, because it felt wrong to leave it behind.

    Of course one of the morals of the story is that if your house is on fire, drop your old pc and run. But the other, is that he have to learn to recognize when the old tools are holding us back.

    Those tools aren’t just physical tools, they’re the skills we develop and hold onto dearly, the processes, the habits, can all be tools that hold us back. It’s not that these tools are a bad thing, it’s only when we become too comfortable with them that we can’t or won’t imagine doing something differently.

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Hi Paul,

      You had no way of knowing this, but I was intimately involved with the South Canyon/Storm King fire. I was the Public Information Officer on Duty that day in 1994 when the fire blew up, and for several days after; I had to notify colleagues that one of their friends had died; and I spent a year working with the community and the families of the firefighters to build a memorial trail. (I shared some of my experience in this article.)

      While the story that the author is telling may be convenient to the concept he’s trying to convey, it’s inaccurate. The firefighters on Storm King did not die because they failed to drop their tools. They were not found holding their chainsaws and pick axes (actually they carry pulaskis), and firefighters don’t carry heavy backpacks when they are on the line. One of my friends did talk about feeling like he couldn’t drop his chainsaw. We talked about that and the fire a lot since he was my room mate for a time.

      The real reason these firefighters died is that they ignored many of the Ten Standard Firefighting Orders and all but two of the Eighteen Watch Outs. I’ve highlighted those below. This failure has repeated itself in every subsequent fatal wildland fire. I believe that if we hope to keep young men and women safe on the fire line, we need to be clear about their responsibilities and about what others have done that resulted in their deaths. We also need to provide them with alternative tools/habits to replace what they’re doing since numerous deaths have told us that what we’re doing now isn’t working as we’d hoped.

      I guess that last sentence was really the message I hoped to convey with this piece. Starting with small steps towards the alternative future gets us there, slowly but surely.

      Ten Standard Firefighting Orders

      1. Keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts.
      2. Know what your fire is doing at all times.
      3. Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire.
      4. Identify escape routes and safety zones and make them known.
      5. Post a lookout where there is possible danger

      6. Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively.
      7. Maintain prompt communication with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces.
      8. Give clear instructions and insure they are understood
      9. Maintain control of your forces at all times.
      10. Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first

      18 Watch Out Situations

      1. Fire not scouted and sized up
      2. In country, not seen in daylight
      3. Safety zones and escape routes not identified
      4. Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior
      5. Uninformed regarding strategy, tactics, and hazards
      6. Instructions and assignments are not clear
      7. No communication with your company or supervisor
      8. Constructing line without a safe anchor point
      9. Building fireline downhill with fire below
      10. Attempting a frontal assault on the fire
      11. Unburned fuel between you and the fire
      12. Cannot see the main fire and not in communication with someone who can
      13. On a hillside where rolling material can ignite material below
      14. Weather is getting hotter and drier
      15. Wind increasing or changing direction
      16. Getting frequent spot fires across the fireline
      17. Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zone difficult

      18. Taking a nap near the fireline

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