Jason Forthofer

Research Mechanical Engineer
(406) 329-4874

Research Topics

  • Fire behavior.
  • Numerical simulation of fire spread and the atmosphere
  • Firefighter safety.
  • Fire tornadoes.

Personal Summary

Jason Forthofer is a Research Mechanical Engineer and has worked at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory since 2001. His research involves numerical, field and laboratory studies of heat transfer, combustion and fluid dynamics related to wildland fires. He is the original developer of the WindNinja wind model used extensively throughout the world for both wildland fire and non-fire applications. Jason’s early research work at the lab lead to improvements to firefighter safety zone size guidelines. While working at the USFS Missoula Technology and Development Center in 2000 he redesigned the shape of the fire shelter to reduce heat transfer and weight, this design is still used today. Throughout Jason’s career, he has worked to develop and deploy custom field and laboratory measuring devices to quantify and better understand fire behavior. His focus recently has been on the development of a new physically-based fire spread model.

Jason has been involved in several firefighter accident reviews which has led to new training and technologies. These include the Fire Weather Alert System, fire whirl training material, and current work to improve smokejumper landing site selection.

Jason has remained active in fire suppression since he started on a district crew in 1996. He is currently a Division Supervisor on a Type 1 Incident Management Team and qualified as a Fire Behavior Analyst.

In the media:

Creating a fire tornado: Montana lab seeks to unlock the mysteries of wildfire

Selected Publications & Products

Finney, Mark A., Sara S. McAllister, Jason M. Forthofer, and Torben P. Grumstrup. Wildland fire behaviour: dynamics, principles and processes. CSIRO publishing, 2021.

Forthofer, JM (2019) Fire Tornadoes. In Scientific American 321, 6, 60-67.

Wagenbrenner, Natalie S.; Forthofer, Jason M.; Page, Wesley G.; Butler, Bret W. 2019. Development and evaluation of a Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes solver in WindNinja for operational wildland fire applications. Atmosphere. 10: 672.

Finney, M. A., Forthofer, J., Grenfell, I. C., Adam, B. A., Akafuah, N. K., & Saito, K. (2015). A Study of Flame Spread in Engineered Cardboard Fuel Beds Part I: Correlations and Observations of Flame Spread. In Progress in Scale Modeling, Volume II (pp. 71-83). Springer, Cham.

W.J. Massman, J.M. Forthofer, M.A. Finney (2017) An improved canopy wind model for predicting wind adjustment factors and wildland fire behavior. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 47:594-603, https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfr-2016-0354

Forthofer, J.M., Butler, B.W., Wagenbrenner, N.S, (2014) A comparison of three approaches for simulating fine-scale surface winds in support of wildland fire management: Part I. Model formulation and comparison against measurements. Int. J. Wildland Fire, Vol. 23, 969–981. doi: 10.1071/WF12089

Forthofer, J.M., Butler, B.W., McHugh, C.W., Finney, M.A., Bradshaw, L.S., Stratton, R.D., Shannon, K.S., Wagenbrenner, N.S, (2014) A comparison of three approaches for simulating fine-scale surface winds in support of wildland fire management: Part II. An exploratory study of the impact of simulated winds on fire growth simulations. Int. J. Wildland Fire, Vol. 23, 982–994. doi:10.1071/WF12090

Forthofer, J.M., Goodrick, S.L, (2011) Review of Vortices in Wildland Fire. Journal of Combustion, Vol. 2011, Article ID 984363, 14 pages. doi:10.1155/2011/984363