Developing Wildland Firefighters’ Performance Capacity Through Awareness-Based Processes: A Qualitative Investigation
- Alexis L. Waldron, Vicki Ebbeck
Decisionmaking in wildland firefighting is an evolving, dynamic reflection of a complex array of social and environmental factors that managers are expected to handle with fewer resources than in past eras. The need for new and effective ways of developing the capabilities to handle these factors is paramount. Seven focus group interviews with wildland fire managers (N 39) throughout the western United States were conducted to assess the meaning and utility of two potential tools that could aid in this development—mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn 1990) and self-compassion (Neff 2003). Individuals who integrate these processes in their lives have been found to maintain and build important personal resources. Managers in this study best resonated with the concepts of mindfulness and self-compassion through four main methods of relating them to personal fire experiences that offer guidance to other managers. They saw value in training fire personnel to use these tools with caution toward self-compassion.