Chaos and Ash

Kendall Johnson

Chaos and Ash records one consultant’s views from the inside of some of the largest critical incidents over the past twenty-five years—many front page headliners, that stand out in the nation’s memory.

From 1987 to 2012 Kendall Johnson served as traumatic stress consultant to emergency service agencies and the military. He has driven into remote locations in both wildland and urban emergencies, convoyed through fire lines, has been airlifted into disasters, and was honored to deal with some of our countries finest firefighters, law enforcement officers, and incident managers in their most trying hours.

It is within the extremes of life experience that important lessons can be learned, that character comes to the fore, and that human nature—for better and for worse—is most clearly revealed. The stories in this book are, in reality, nothing more than the stories of this particular author, within the incidents that he, fortunately or not, stumbled himself into.

“A vivid mosaic from decades of crisis intervention, Chaos & Ash offers stories we need to hear as we navigate Corona and its consequences for those on the front line.” Miles Wilson, author of Fire Season

“Kendall Johnson has witnessed so much of the pain and violence of our time, from the Vietnam War as a sailor, to 9/11 as a second responder, to the California wildfires as both a firefighter and later as a trauma psychotherapist. Chaos & Ash brings us into these worlds and gives us an insight to them that no one else could. Johnson was someone who was drawn to these worlds as a young man, and spent his later life trying to understand what brings people toward violence and what that violence does to them. Through him we have an insider’s understanding of events that have shaped our society, but we also have insight into the deepest parts of the human psyche. We witness his experience with the effects of PTSD including flashbacks and terror and depression, and because of his education, we are able to understand them. This is a rare book as Johnson is a rare writer. It is informed by a lifetime of looking directly at things that most of us will never see and contemplating those events seriously. Chaos & Ash gave me the perspective to reevaluate the times I have lived through and my reactions to them. I am grateful to this new view of the world and the compassion it engenders in me.” John Brantingham, Poet Laureate of Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park

Chaos and Ash shows us the heart and soul of a multi-skilled Viet Nam veteran who served his community and the world – Wild land firefighter, teacher, disaster responder, psychotherapist, artist, writer and so much more. Kendall Johnson is a superb writer and a master story-teller. In Chaos and Ash he expertly weaves together experiences of the past and present. His writing is laced with touching stories, wisdom gained over decades, and personal views polished by years of work in the grittier side of human experience. There are touches of humor that indicate that he has survived and overcome the jarring psychological impacts of trauma work and the heartrending tales told by crushed and oppressed people around the globe. Chaos and Ash will touch your heart, encourage and guide you, and offer hope that tomorrow can be a better day than today.” Jeffrey T. Mitchell, Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Emergency Medical Services, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Co-founder and former president and senior faculty member, International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF)

“If you care about disasters and recovery, Kendall Johnson’s new book, Chaos & Ash, notes his “darker places” during his 25-year tour as an on-scene critical incident consultant. Worth the read but even better as a personal guide to facing and managing post-traumatic stress.” Charles R. Figley, Kurzweg Chair in Disaster Mental Health, Tulane University, New Orleans

Kendall Johnson, former firefighter with military experience, served as traumatic stress consultant—often in the field—specializing in Incident Command System Class I & II commands. Initially working with individual and small team line personnel, His responsibilities evolved to provide consultation to field commanders and their operational teams, and, when necessary, provide intervention in order to maintain team effectiveness in the midst of incidents that had turned traumatic. He has lectured in fire houses, hospitals, emergency service institutes, conferences, government training facilities, universities, here and abroad.

He trained others in the principles he developed. Dr. Johnson was Adjunct Faculty member at the California State Training Institute (Governor’s Office of Emergency Services), served on the Faculty of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, and was Associate Professor in the Master’s Degree program in Emergency Services Management at California State University, Long Beach.

He has authored a number of professional papers, seven books in the treatment of traumatic stress, school crisis management, and recovery. Recently Dr. Johnson retired from teaching to pursue painting, photography, and writing. In that capacity he has written five literary books of artwork and poetry, and one in art history.