The US Forest Service Life First safety initiative: exploring unnecessary exposure to risk
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): David Flores; Emily Haire
Publication Year: 2022

Cataloging Information

  • firefighters
  • high reliability organization
  • organizational culture
  • organizational learning
  • unnecessary exposure
  • US Forest Service
  • wildland firefighting
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 28, 2022
FRAMES Record Number: 66802


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.

Online Link(s):
Flores, David; Haire, Emily R. 2022. The US Forest Service Life First safety initiative: exploring unnecessary exposure to risk. International Journal of Wildland Fire 31(10):927-935.