Inala Road Staff Ride


On 9th and 10th July 2013, six months after the devastating Inala Road Fire, the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) conducted an on-site learning field ride (The Ride) for 40 participants from TFS, Forestry Tasmania and Parks and Wildlife, to hear the stories of key fireground personnel who were on the fire-ground during the 3rd and 4th January when the Inala Rd fire escalated and took its run. The purpose of the Field Ride was to better understand what fire ground personnel faced, their experiences, challenges and decisions in order to draw out key lessons that would strengthen organisational capacity to deal with future large scale and catastrophic events. The Ride involved a process of working with the original fire- ground personnel to draw out their stories while, at the same time, remaining sensitive to the ongoing psychological impacts of this process, given the extraordinary nature of the event in their lives.

This report summarises:

  • the process of the Field Ride including the objectives for TFS
  • the lessons captured from the two stages of the Ride program – both from the fire ground personnel and the participants of the second Ride; and
  • the insights gained and resources required for running a program of this nature to help in the development of future Field Ride events.

What is a Ride?

The design of The Ride drew from the processes and format of the “Staff Ride” – a highly regarded program used by the Wildfire Lessons Learnt organisation in the USA (Sutton & Cook, 2003) and recently trialled in Australia by the Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania (PWS) at Narawntapu and the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria (DSE) at Cobaw. The ride is a highly experiential and immersive learning program which revisits the ground of an incident and enables a walk-through of what happened. It aims to foster reflection in a non-blame environment, by encouraging participants to understand the reasons behind their decision-making. By hearing the narrative of a complex and dynamic event as revealed in detailed stories of the personnel directly involved, it is possible to see things that might not normally be visible to participants, thus providing alternative ways of examining and reflecting on an event.


The objectives of the Ride Program were as follows.

  1. To conduct a Field Ride with key crew leaders and decision-makers who were directly involved on the Dunalley Fire-ground during January 2013, in order to reflect and draw out lessons from that experience and to identify potential learning opportunities for others.
  2. To conduct a second Field Ride for a wider audience to learn from the challenges facing personnel on the ground.
  3. Both Rides were designed to promote and to build capacity in reflective inquiry with an environment of no-blame, in order to enable honesty and openness in discussion about what happened. The intention was to build a learning culture based on trust where reflective learning is valued and sought after.

Learning Outcomes

The insights from the two Rides are contained in a Synopsis of lessons learned addressing key themes identified by TFS, and Notes from the second Field Ride Integration phase. Both provide insights and suggestions for organisational learning and improvement. 

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