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Boots on the Ground

Many scientists from the Fire, Fuel, and Smoke program are intimately involved with various aspects of fire management, including both prescribed fires and wildfires. Not only do these activities provide operational experience and the opportunity to observe fire in many different vegetation types but often stimulates research collaboration between FFS and the field. This last year, FFS employees worked on lands managed by the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service (USFS), Colville Agency, Yakama Agency, State of Idaho, State of Alaska, and the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association.

Prescribed Fire

Last spring, Matt Jolly, Dan Jimenez, and Elliott Conrad ventured to the southeastern United States to participate in multiple prescribed burns as a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis at the University of Montana, and FFS. They were able to participate in burning seven different units in multiple vegetation types totaling almost 900 acres of degraded pine forests and work on various operational qualifications. Dan Jimenez and Jim Reardon collaborated with the BLM in eastern Montana to attach temperature sensors to stone and bone artifacts during a prescribed burn at the Henry Smith Archaeological Site to evaluate fire effects to the artifacts.

Jason Forthofer, Sara McAllister, Dan Jimenez, Russ Parsons, and Elliott Conrad assisted the Eureka District of the Kootenai National Forest with a multiday prescribed fire that led to further collaboration between FFS and the Kootenai NF to study fire spread and safety zone guidelines by burning two research units. Jason, Dan, Bret Butler, Paul Sopko, Jon Bergroos, and Andrew Gorris assisted with the research burns. Jason and Elliott also helped burn a prescribed fire unit for Missoula BLM.


Jason Forthofer worked on multiple wildfires in Oregon, Washington, and Montana as a Task Force Leader (TFLD), Strike Team Leader Engine (STEN), and finished his training as a Division/Group Supervisor (DIVS). He offered invaluable assistance to evacuate a community in northern Idaho that was in the path of a quickly spreading wildfire.

Greg Dillon worked with a variety of incident management teams including Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 teams training to be a Geographic Information System Specialist (GISS) on wildfires in Washington, Oregon, and Montana. Greg also worked with the Multi-Agency Coordination Group (MAC) at the Northern Rockies in Missoula for two weeks providing invaluable maps and information. He created a script to automate the creation of new fire perimeters based on the most recent VIIRS and MODIS heat detection points which greatly improved decision-making and fire behavior analyses.

Faith Ann Heinsch travelled to the Last Frontier to work as a Geospatial Analyst (GSAN) supporting wildfires burning on BLM, State of Alaska, and tribal lands. After returning to the lower 48, Faith Ann continued to work as a Geographic Information System Specialist (GISS) for fires in Oregon and Idaho, including working as a trainer to mentor five personnel in training to be GISSs. She created more than 100 maps, learned to work within the ArcGIS Online environment, and worked with two Type 1 incident management teams.

Dan Jimenez worked in the Alaska bush at a remote spike camp for three weeks as a Fireline Emergency Medical Technician (EMTF) providing first aid support to as many as ten 20-person handcrews and miscellaneous overhead along a remote section of the Yukon River.

Jon Bergroos was able to get some operational experience the very first year of having his red card. He worked with the Plains/Thompson Falls initial attack crew on the Lolo NF and was then assigned as part of a 20-person handcrew to the West Fork Fish Creek Fire on the adjacent Ninemile Ranger District.

Matt Jolly worked to support district fire managers on primarily Type 3 incidents as a Geospatial Analyst (GSAN). He supported spatial fire behavior analysis requests for six fires in the Northern Rockies Geographic Area and he worked as part of the USFS Region 1 Decision Support team to provide up-to-date fire situation analyses to regional fire managers and the Northern Rockies Multi-Agency Coordination Group. He developed new techniques to map season-ending events across the geographic area and web-based displays for strategic wildland fire decision making. He also developed new fire danger mapping displays that were used to support decision making in the National Multi-Agency Coordination Group (NMAC) and the USFS Washington Office.

LaWen Hollingsworth travelled to Alaska to work as a supervisory Long Term Fire Analyst (LTAN) at the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks. She mentored Geospatial Analysts and personnel training to be LTANs as well as provided information on the short-term status of fuels and fire behavior to the Alaska Multi-Agency Coordination Group (AMAC). LaWen also worked as an LTAN in western Washington, providing fire behavior analyses for a Type 2 incident management team and mentoring an individual training to be an LTAN. She finished up the season working in Montana, providing short- and long-term fire behavior analyses for agency administrators and a Type 2 incident management team and assisted in preparing a long term plan for a fire burning in a Wilderness Study Area/Research Natural Area in the Pioneer Mountains. This spring LaWen assisted with prescribed burns on the Ninemile RD of the Lolo NF.

Chuck McHugh worked as a Long Term Fire Analyst (LTAN) in Alaska working out of the Alaska State Department of Forestry initial attack base in McGrath, Alaska. He provided fire behavior analysis support and assessments for 20 separate fires covering a mix of jurisdictions: BLM, FWS, tribal, NPS, and State of Alaska. He also worked with Geospatial Analysts from FWS advising and reviewing modeling efforts. Modeling results were used by the Alaska Multi-Agency Coordination Group (AMAC) to assist with resource allocations and strategic planning. Chuck also worked as an LTAN developing long term plans for the Reynolds Fire and the Thompson Divide Complex in Glacier National Park. The Reynolds Fire was located on the east side of the Park and caused the Going to the Sun Road, between Logan Pass and St. Mary, to be closed to the public for a period of time as well as impacting concessioners, campgrounds, and lodging facilities located in and adjacent to the fire area. The Thompson Divide Complex consisted of the Thompson Fire within Glacier National Park and the Sheep and Granite Fires located on the Flathead National Forest. The Sheep Fire was a critical threat as it temporarily closed the railroad and almost impacted the historic Izaak Walton Inn and Essex, Montana.

Photos, clockwise from upper left: Dan Jimenez assists with a prescribed burn in Georgia pine forests.; A prescribed fire is  lit from the road in the burn unit. Elliot Conrad also assists with the burns. Photos courtesy of Matt Jolly / FFS.
Modified: Jul 26, 2016

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