Timeless Truths on Fires and Firefighting From 2000

I found these in an old document dated in 2016. It states:
Tactical Truths - Fires give the test just ahead of the lesson (sent in by BLM Bob on Dec 18, 2000)
Though some sound very close to the late Chief Alan Brunacini’s sayings, I am posting them for the wisdom and smiles it might bring…

Fire Ops:

  • Move quick - young conditions are easier to control than old ones.

  • A little effort in the beginning can eliminate the need for lots of effort at the end.

  • It is better to get out (of a situation) five minutes too soon than five seconds too late.

  • When you’re having problems, take a partner.

  • Very little on a fire falls up.

  • Don’t ever let your inclination to gamble outdistance your fear.

  • Never confuse repeat fires for routine fires; the same basic deadly elements are present at every fire - there are no routine fires.

  • Don’t spend all your chips - always have a tactical reserve.

  • If you’re gonna order, you gotta pay the check.

  • Good procedures are so simple you don’t need to write them down to remember them, or use a dictionary to understand them.

  • There ain’t no fair fights on a fire.

  • Be suspicious of smoke - it can hide what is really going on.

  • Most of the time, the first five minutes are worth the next five hours.

  • The longer you wait to make a decision, the fewer options you will have. (Bob’s exception - BUT, the more information you will have - it’s a tricky balancing act.)

  • There is no connection between the amount of hose on a fire and the amount of water put on the fire.

  • The most important fire is the next one.


  • The very worst fire plan is no plan - the next worse is two plans.

  • The only safe wildfire assumption is to assume the worst.

  • If you have lots of ideas, you will need lots of help.

  • Fires all go out eventually.

  • If you don’t have a plan, don’t add additional resources.

  • Hope for the best - plan for the worst.

  • The more routine decisions you make prior to a fire, the more time you will have to make critical decisions during a fire.

  • Every fire situation has a limited number of decisions - they can be made by you or the fire.

Working With People:

  • Vomiting firefighters are ugly firefighters.

  • Don’t stand too close to people that are always bandaged up.

  • Losing your temper usually represents the incipient stage of rectal-cranial inversion.

  • When someone screws up, yell at them - they’ll really appreciate it.

  • Be careful around people who attach status to knowing things you don’t.

  • Beware of Kamikaze pilots with 65 missions under their belt.

  • Beware of a supervisor who says “Don’t do anything until I get there.”

  • Always take care of people who are trying to make you look good and make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

  • Smart people on a fire can tell what is going to happen - anyone can tell what has happened.

  • We don’t generally get called to go on a fire because someone did something smart.

  • Be careful of what you say in difficult situations - offhanded, dumb comments are like aluminum cans, they last forever in the environment.

  • Do not think you are communicating just because you are talking.

Taking Care of Yourself:

  • If you panic, be certain to run in the correct direction.

  • Safety prevents meetings.

  • Gravity will always culminate at the bottom.

  • Trust safety, not luck.

  • Keep working on the basics - most of us are not advanced enough to make advanced mistakes.

  • Be careful of people who close their eyes and open their mouths.

  • A hero is nothing but a sandwich.

  • If you aren’t dressed to play, stay in the bleachers and off the field.

  • If you are not willing to disagree with a decision, stay home and watch the fire on TV.

Important Things You’ll Learn:

  • Take firefighting seriously, but do not take yourself seriously.

  • Educational times on a fire are not always fun times.

  • Experience and education are like oregano - they must be mixed with a lot of other stuff to be good.

  • It is difficult to get just a little bit excited.

  • Some days on the fireline, the best it gets is so-so.

  • When you lose your head, the next thing is your ass.

  • When the forest burns, don’t take it personally, you didn’t make the woods combustible.

  • If looking at a fire makes you crazy, don’t look at it.

  • If you can’t control yourself, you can’t control anything.

  • Never is a long time.

  • If you think the cost of fire training is expensive, check out the cost of ignorance.

  • Surprises are nice on your birthday, not on a fire.

  • Everything on a fire is “too” something.

  • There are no credit cards on a fire - you pay for everything you do at the time you do it.

  • There aren’t any “time outs” on a fire.

  • Don’t change the rules by breaking them.

  • The next tragedy will take the pressure off the last tragedy.

  • The further you are from the last fire the closer you are to the next one.

  • Experience is something you gain right after you need it.


Some real jewels there. That last one about experience coming right after you need it, reminds me of another saying. Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from using bad judgment. These are too good not to share.


Luck reinforces bad decisions


Wisdom is the comb life gives you after you’ve lost all your hair.


…And its companion… Good luck should not replace good tactics.


Hope is not a strategy.