Chief Fedak, Thank you for providing training on Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) issues, and specifically for giving me an excellent understanding of the challenges facing wildland fire fighters in this region. My training and experience in fire prevention at the Huntington Beach Fire Department included only a minimal amount on WUI, and nothing on wildland fire suppression.
Recently, when the position came open for Laguna Beach Fire Marshal, I was excited at the opportunity and put in an application. However, during the first round of the job interview process, it became very apparent that I did not have an adequate understanding of WUI issues from either the prevention or suppression perspective. Fortunately, I was given your name as an expert in the suppression aspect of wildland fire fighting. I knew that there would be only a short time between the first round of interviews and the second, so I needed assistance quickly.
Your response to my request for help was immediate, and the training material you provided on defensible space, fuel modification zones, and hardened homes was invaluable. It allowed me to start studying the topics before our training, and begin to develop an understanding of the challenges. Our field drive of the interface training helped to really cement what I had started to learn in studying the materials. Seeing real examples of well-maintained defensible space and homes designed and maintained to withstand a wildland fire gave me the knowledge and confidence needed to speak intelligently on the WUI issue during the second interview.
When asked about my knowledge base by the Laguna Beach Fire Chief, I followed your suggestion about presentation, and told him that I had trained with a Battalion Chief as the beginning of my education on the WUI. I also followed your suggestion and indicated that as the Fire Marshal I would work hard to become a subject matter expert, and work with other Orange County fire agencies to provide the best possible wildland fire protection for Laguna Beach.
As a result of following your suggestions, I was able to take a weakness in my experience and turn it into an opportunity to show potential for professional growth. The second interview with the Fire Chief went very well, and I was offered the position of Fire Marshal with the Laguna Beach Fire Department.