Lynn Biddison, 1927 – 2015

Lynn BiddisonLynn Robert Biddison, one of the legends in wildland fire, passed away October 19, 2015 at the age of 88 as a result of injuries sustained in a vehicle accident in Albuquerque on October 11, 2015. His fire career with the U.S. Forest Service began in 1943 on the Angeles National Forest in southern California, and he retired in 1982 as Regional Fire Director in California.

When I worked in that Region I heard his name referenced many times, always in a positive way, but I did not meet him until after he retired and was working as a representative for the fire retardant company Fire-Trol. I ran into him several times at meetings and he was always friendly and interesting to talk to. He has been mentioned at last five times on Wildfire Today — three times when we asked fire leaders our 12 Questions, once in regard to the first actual use of a fire shelter, and another time when we wrote about the 1970 Laguna Fire.

The family requests that memorial gifts be sent to the National Museum of Forest Service History, P.O. Box 2772, Missoula, MT, 59806. Dedicated gifts can be sent online at by clicking on the “programs” and “ways to help” links. Online condolences can be left for Mr. Biddison at 

There are two documents about Mr. Biddison that you might appreciate. One is a 2003 interview conducted by Jim Cook and Mark Linane. The other is a letter he wrote in 1982 in which he listed 30 items he considered to be the “Basics of Fire Suppression”.

Below is a summary of Mr. Biddison’s USFS career, from the 2003 interview:


“Lynn Biddison started as a firefighter in 1943 on the Angeles National Forest. He volunteered for the Marine Corps and the Navy, but colorblindness kept him out of both services. He was drafted in early 1945. At the induction station he volunteered for the paratroops, but was assigned to the Navy Seabees and served in the Philippines until the end of the war in the Pacific. Once out of the Navy, he went back to work for the Angeles National Forest in 1946 as the TTO (Tank Truck Operator) at Oak Flats. In 1947, he became the Tanker Foreman at the District Ranger Station in what is now downtown Newhall. That job also included spending two days a week as the district dispatcher. During that fire season he witnessed the first time a helicopter was used on a fire, it was the Bryant Fire in Big Tujunga Canyon. In order to keep working in 1948, he had to join the engineering crew building water tanks on the Arroyo Seco Ranger District. He began college that same year at Berkeley studying forestry and spent much of the summer in 1949 at forestry camp on the Plumas National Forest.

In 1950, Biddison was assigned to the newly formed Chilao Hotshots as one of the Crew Foremen. That was the second year of the crew and he was in charge of a 10-man crew, one of three that made up the full 30-man hotshot crew. His crew was made up of Navajo and Hopi Indians from the Sherman Institute at Riverside, California. Then in 1951, the Superintendent left and he was promoted into that position. During his stint running the Chilao Hotshots, Biddison graduated from forestry school in 1951. He took the Forest Service Junior Forester (JF) exam and flunked, but had passed the State Assistant Ranger exam with a score of 95. All through 1952 and part of 1953 he couldn’t get a JF appointment, but was getting offers from the California Department of Forestry. However, being third generation Forest Service, he had his sights set on a professional career with the Forest Service, so he took the JF exam again and with his Veteran Preference he passed. Finally, he got a Junior Forester appointment in 1953. Leaving the hotshots, he became the Assistant Ranger on the Arroyo Seco District and also spent a year as the acting District FCO (Fire Control Officer).

In 1956, Biddison went to the Cajon District on the San Bernardino National Forest as the District Ranger. He kept active in the fire world as a District Ranger and was selected as one of the Region 5 representatives to the first national fire behavior training course (a five week session) held at Missoula, Montana in 1958.

During the Spring of 1960, Biddison moved to the Cleveland National Forest to take the Fire Control Officer position. Again, he remained very active on the national fire scene, attending the first Fire Generalship and Command course held at Marana, Arizona in 1962. Biddison came back to the San Bernardino as the Fire Control Officer in 1964. This job was graded as a GS-13 and along with the Angeles FCO, these were the first GS-13 Forest FCOs in the Forest Service (it wasn’t until the 1970s that Fire Control Officers became Fire Management Officers). During his tenure as a Forest FCO, Biddison was instrumental in establishing the first standing forest overhead teams. By this time in his career, he was being sent as a Fire Boss to large fires all over the country, including a Zone Fire Boss assignment on the infamous Sundance Fire in 1967.

Then in 1968, Biddison went to Region 3 as the Chief of Fire Protection and after 2 years he was promoted to the Assistant Regional Forester for Fire (a position now called the Regional Fire Director). When he arrived in Region 3 they had a fire budget of $2 million and no hotshot crew program. When he left 12 years later, the fire budget was $30 million and there were 13 hotshot crews in the region. Biddison’s last posting for the U.S. Forest Service was back to Region 5 as the Regional Fire Director where he pushed for a back-to-the-basics (1982 letter by Biddison) firefighting ethic. He retired from that position in 1982, nearly 40 years after he started with the Forest Service.”

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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.

4 thoughts on “Lynn Biddison, 1927 – 2015”

  1. Lynn was an outstanding person and mentor to me. Farewell my friend, you will be remembered! Mark

  2. I attended the service for Lynn in Albuquerque last Saturday. It was well attended and I saw a lot of old FS employees, some of whom I had not seen in years. I first met Lynn is the early ’70 when I was a rookie District FCO. As someone else said, once he met you, he didn’t forget. I also worked with him and Firetrol for a short time after I retired. He was one of the last of the leaders that truly cared about the people on the ground. He will be missed.

  3. I sincerely wish I could have known the man better. Had the honor of meeting up with him twice, once in Abbotsford and again in Albuquerque (and it was years later, yet he remembered me). Biddison was one of those RARE individuals — you know the kind — with whom it seems to not matter who you are or what you do, he talks with you and treats you as if you are A Very Valuable Human. I was struck both times with his impressive “presence,” the way he stood tall (in all senses of the phrase) and just exuded knowledge and wisdom in a kind and quiet way. He’ll be missed by many, for many years — but Lynn Biddison is one of those icons who never really die, because they live on in many others’ lives.

  4. it is a sad day for our family, Lynn was a common name in our house when I was growing up, my father Reid worked for/with Lynn throughout his career. From the Marks family, Adele, Lisa and Russell, our hearts go out to the Biddison family.


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