Fire management teams in Yellowstone National Park once suppressed all fires with hopes of protecting people, wildlife, and structures. Starting in the early 1970s, however, firefighters discovered the benefits of allowing natural fires to burn. These natural fires, caused by lightening, burned out quickly and left burn patterns similar to puzzle pieces fitting together! Aerial views revealed an apparent systematic replacement of older and drought-ridden forests. But, the miracle of fire in Yellowstone National Park didn’t end there…
Lodgepole Pines only germinate in temperatures reaching 120°F, which at high-altitude is a rare event. Yet, when fire rushes through tree canopies, as high as 75 feet, the resin protecting seeds from squirrels melts away. Hundreds of pine cones open up releasing two million seeds per acre. If the fire lingers for more than 25 seconds, however, the seeds burn– proving wind speeds and level of drought are also factors in regenerating forests. In fire cleared meadows, new trees grow up to 12 to 24 inches per year and live for hundreds of years.
Wait, fire can be a good thing? Yes, in situations where the withering and drought-ridden needs to be replaced. Can fire, or challenging situations, be good for our work and leadership efforts? Yes, where fresh behaviors and ideas are needed. In what stage of reforestation is your work?
- Under Fire: Fire testing confirms the strength of what survives and eradicates what can’t. Fortunately, we learn a lot of important and (hopefully) permanent lessons from extreme experiences in our work. What is being reinforced? What represents resin being melted away?
- Germination: Fire returns nutrients to the soil. Much like a forest regrows after fire, a systematic refresh of how we approach people, processes, and products can generate new, creative concepts. What represents the nutrients in your work? What is starting to grow?
- Flourishing: Despite its thin bark and shallow root system, the majestic lodgepole pine yields more wood for its size than other associated species. What is yielding proportionately more than other efforts in your work? How can you expand or grow?
Seedlings thrive in nutritious soil after being fire tested. Renewed alpine meadows teem with life and eventually flourish as forests. Strangely, not all fire should be suppressed. Similarly, our personal efforts will be tested and only the quality work will prevail.
…each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:13, NASB)
Sources: National Park Service: Forests, Forest Fires in Yellowstone: the Science of Burning and Regrowth; Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (University of California); National Geographic (America’s Wild Spaces, Secret Yellowstone); Cone Serotiny – Fire Relationships in Lodgepole Pine; Lodgepole Pine; Forest Policy Up in Smoke: Fire Suppression in the United States.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.