Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lessons on leaders, wildfires, trust, and jumping into the burn.

A couple of stories were brought to my attention yesterday, which highlight important lessons on inspired leaders, crisis, and trust.

The Mann Gulch Fire

In August 1949, lightning struck a slope above the Missouri river in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness in a place called Mann Gulch. It started a fire that would go down in history.

Trusting your church leaders
SmokeJumpers 1948
Soon after the fire started, a team of 15 smokejumpers - a profession then only 9 years old - parachuted into the Wilderness and joined with another young firefighter already on the ground to begin working on containing the blaze.

From the beginning, the circumstances seemed particularly challenging.

Trouble starts

The team and their equipment were scattered widely due to the conditions of the air currents and layout of the land. The radio was destroyed. The single firefighter already on the scene, a 20 year old named James Harrison, had been fighting the fire alone for 4 hours, and was getting tired.

With the fire on the south side of the Gulch, the foreman, 33 year old R. Wagner Dodge, instructed the team to walk along the north side of the gulch to get in a better position to steer the fire into less flammable areas.

The firefighters, all between the ages of 17 and 28, got spread out. Dodge was bringing up the rear with Harrison when he saw the smoke at the front of the fire begin to boil up - a sure sign that the wind had changed and the fire was intensifying.  He hurried to try and catch his men.