Ron Wakimoto — three decades of fire science

Ron Wakimoto
Ron Wakimoto. University of Montana photo.

The Missoulian has an interesting article about a fire scientist that influenced wildland fire practices and policy over the last few decades.

Below is an excerpt:


Ron Wakimoto rearranged how we think about fire

Some fire scientists burn down hillsides. Some burn up whole fire policies.

Ron Wakimoto has done both, developing research that helps save the lives of firefighters and helps return fire to the woods after a half-century of fighting to keep it out. Last week, he wound up more than three decades of teaching fire science at the University of Montana’s School of Forestry.

“Ron has been a leader in terms of teaching, and we wanted the students to be able to hear from an elder,” said Colin Hardy, director of the U.S. Forest Service Fire Sciences Laboratory, just before Wakimoto spoke to the annual Mike and Maybelle Hardy Lecture audience last Thursday. “He taught us we need to think about fire management, not just fire suppression. On the political and management side, it’s about air tankers and people on the ground and big iron – it’s a big show. But among fire managers today, Ron’s speaking to the choir.”

“I’m the one who doesn’t wear the green underwear,” Wakimoto joked about his presence as the academic in rooms full of U.S. Forest Service officials. “Policy and science rarely go together.”

Wakimoto got his initial introduction to fire studies from Harold Biswell at the University of California, Berkley. Biswell was a controversial figure then, picking up nicknames like “Dr. Burnwell” and “Harry the Torch” for his avocation of fire as a natural part of the landscape…”

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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.

2 thoughts on “Ron Wakimoto — three decades of fire science”

  1. Ron is also known for his interest in hunting as shown in the article photo. It got him over to the “eastside” occasionally. In his early years at UM Ron’s small pickup also had an affinity for attracting large game and had the “dimples” to prove it. One of the untold hazardous of fire research in Montana. Congratulations Ron on the award. Your years of dedication to fire research / management has ruffled a few feathers on occasion (a good thing) and led many a young person from around the world to a better understanding of wildland fire.

  2. I’ll never forget Ron as the game show host for “Who want to be a Forester?” at Forestry Camp circa 2000. Good times. Poor School of Forestry kids don’t even go thru Camp anymore (And yes, it will always be the School of Forestry)


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