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Library Card

2002. Crew Cohesion, Wildland Fire Transition, and Fatalities. 0251 2809. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Missoula Technology and Development Center.

Describes the role played by crew cohesion in the deaths of firefighters in three firefighting tragedies: the Mann Gulch Fire, the South Canyon Fire, and the Thirtymile Fire. Two types of cohesion are involved, the cohesion within a crew (intracrew cohesion) and the cohesion among crews (intercrew cohesion). Cohesion is a way of describing how closely people feel they are tied to a group. Studies of field crews in the Forest Service have shown that the less cohesion crews had, the more likely they were to be involved in accidents. Meanwhile, studies of wildland firefighter fatalities during the 1990s have shown that nearly threefourths of the fatalities occurred when fires were making the transition from relatively small to relatively large fires, or shortly after they had become relatively large fires. The transition is often sudden, when it is described as a "blow up." Driessen recommends studies that would allow the different types of transition fires to be classified. This classification system would allow crew leaders and fire managers to communicate clearly when fires are making the transition from relatively small fires to relatively large fires. The studies would also identify tactics that successful crew leaders use to build the essential level of crew cohesion when fires are in transition.

Keywords: fire fighters, fire fighting, firefighters, firefighting, group interaction, groups, safety at work, social behavior, sociology, sociology of work


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