Learning fire behavior from the experts

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center is doing great work. I recently ran across a treasure trove of videos that they produced and uploaded to YouTube. Previously the LLC hosted the videos on their own site, but they have revisited that decision and are moving them to YouTube, where they are much more accessible.

The five videos about fire behavior that I embedded here have been on YouTube for one to two months but have only been viewed between 2 and 18 times as of February 3, 2012. These interviews with recognized experts in fire behavior are an attempt to capture and preserve knowledge that may help those coming up through the ranks. Maybe a viewer will learn something that might have taken them years otherwise, or it may prevent a firefighter from making a costly mistake.

Of the 12 videos in this “Learning from the Experts: Fire Behavior” series, I selected these 5 simply because I know or have been taught by these individuals, but check out the other 7 videos also.

In the video below: Richard Rothermel began research and writing on a fire spread model that is still taught in fire management classes today. This model of Rothermel’s is the basis for today’s S-490 class.

In the video below, Rob Seli addresses how to ask the right questions about the modeling tool.

In the video below, Patti Koppenol describes her process of assessing risk.

In the video below, Risa Lange-Navarro tells how one event at the beginning of her career helped her develop her skills for anticipating fire behavior.

In the video below, listen to how Rod Norum faced the challenge of a major fire burning toward the Alaska Pipeline–including a “monster” tactical 26-mile-long backfire.


Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

6 thoughts on “Learning fire behavior from the experts”

  1. It is amazing that none of these experts have talked to the tanker pilots who have a first hand view as to what is happening.

  2. Marc

    Why would anyone want to secure a birdseye view of the action?? Why would anyone on the ground believe in a tanker driver whether it be a SEAT, LAT or VLAT?

    Why would anyone want the driver of “another tool in the toolbox” share a professional opinion based on a 6-7 month contract. What????? an aviator or pilot with an opinion, especially one that either flies for the natural resource agencies that MIGHT have a operational background, or God forbid, a pilot with a Forestry background??

    Guess we already know that answer!

    1. I just claim that our expertise goes unnoticed. We receive concurrent training on fire behavior every year and our observations are an important part of the overall mission, Leo it would seem to me that you are trying to justify tour job, lets all work together and use as many resources as available.

  3. All aerial firefighters I know are dedicated to the mission they are assigned. Yours Leo is just the opinion that we as fellow firefighters try to educate.

  4. Leo and Marc – I haven’t watched all of the videos yet, but I would bet all the folks in them HAVE at one point or another talked to tanker and helicopter pilots about fire behavior they’ve seen.

    I do agree Marc that pilot experience often goes unnoticed. I’m lucky enough to work on the helitack side of things, and I love having the opportunity to compare notes with pilots after a fire… it’s good to have a different perspective whenever possible.

  5. I enjoyed listening to pilot comments and often picked up key information on fire behavior. At least once a heavy tankers pilot warning of a spot fire in a canyon below my position saved me from being burned over.
    Pilots are part of the team and communcations with them can help all of us out. Some pilots have been flying fire for years and can make some very good predictions on what is going to happen.

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