National Wildfire Coordinating Group

2019 WOR Day 1: A Focus on Normal Work

June 30-July 6, 2019

This Week of Remembrance is dedicated to all those who have fallen in the line of duty and is intended to serve as an opportunity to renew our commitment to the health, wellness, and safety of wildland firefighters.


Last known group photo taken of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew. (Eric Marsh and Chris MacKenzie not pictured.)

Last known group photo taken of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew. (Eric Marsh and Chris MacKenzie not pictured.)

On June 30, 2013 nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew lost their lives on the Yarnell Hill fire. Today we mark the anniversary of this tragedy and honor through learning. Anniversaries of such events provide an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our mission and seek improvement. Every year wildland firefighters die in the line of duty. In 2013 our community suffered the loss of 34 fellow firefighters – 56 percent of them on one fire. They were just out doing normal work.

This year the Week of Remembrance focuses on normal work, not the exception events like Yarnell or South Canyon.  We remember these days – but how many of you remember the events of July 21, 2009?  Unless you knew TJ or were a rappeller you might not remember that day at all.  At the Willow Helibase Thomas (TJ) Marovich Jr. and his crew were undergoing their biweekly proficiency rappels.  Rappelling from a helicopter is a high risk/low frequency event and keeping skills polished in these events is important.  That day was a normal day.  The crew had finished up a full roll on the Backbone Fire, went home for 2 days of R&R, and then came back to the Backbone Fire for another round.  Before the crew could get back to work, they had to complete their proficiency rappel. TJ didn’t survive.

As we gain experience we face a challenge.  As we grow in familiarity with a task we naturally and inevitably focus less attention to that task while doing it.  Whether it’s hose lay drills, buddy checks, or 6 Minutes for Safety – we do lots of things over and over and they become normal work.

In the coming days we will dig into the events of that day and the normal human limitations that we all face.  TJ died rappelling from a helicopter but this is not a rappeller’s story…it’s a human one. 

Tomorrow we will start with an overview of the Willow Helibase Fatality. Remember that we honor through learning. Learning often involves change. As a crew and an individual, look critically at the tasks you've become familiar with and do naturally and identify areas where you can grow.


Begin today with a general discussion using these questions:

  • Identify an activity that required your undivided attention at first but now you can do it without thinking.
  • When is your mind most likely to wander?(Did you really hear today’s fire weather forecast?)
  • What do you do when you realize you’ve missed something?

Purple ribbon symbol

How can YOU Honor through Learning?

The topics, review, and resources for the NWCG “Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance” have been contributed by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, the NWCG Leadership Committee, and many other field subject matter experts.


Week of Remembrance
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Jun 2023

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