Joint Fire Science Program produces map of firefighter burnovers

Map of firefighter burnovers
Screenshot of a map of firefighter burnovers. The size of the circle is proportional to the number of personnel involved. JFSP, November, 2020.

The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) has produced a story map highlighting some of the organization’s success stories, in particular their research in entrapment avoidance, safety zones, and escape routes.

The screenshot above is from an interesting interactive map in the presentation showing the locations where wildland firefighters were burned over by fires. The size of the circle is proportional to the number of personnel involved in each incident, but not every burnover resulted in fatalities. A click on the circle brings up a few details about the incident.

The JFSP was established by Congress in 1998 and is jointly funded by the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service. The Joint Fire Science Plan written then, (linked to on their website) says the organization “will address issues critical to the success of the fuels management and fire use program.”

In FY 2017, 16 of the 22  JFSP approved and funded research projects were various ways of studying vegetation. Back then we wrote:

It would be refreshing to see more funds put toward projects that would enhance the science, safety, and effectiveness of firefighting.

Since then the emphasis has shifted a little — in a good way. In FY 2020 their research grants were for projects on one of two topics:

  1. Effectiveness of fuel breaks and fuel break systems.
  2. Reducing damages and losses to valued resources from wildfire.

And in FY 2021: (they expect total funding to be $1.5 to $3.5 million):

  1. Sources and distribution of human-caused ignitions and their relation to wildfire impacts.
  2. Reducing damages and losses to valued resources from wildfire.

Wildfire Today continues to advocate for the the JFSP to place a major emphasis on developing science that can be directly used by wildland fire personnel to enhance their safety, firefighting efficiency, and reduce the undesirable and sometimes catastrophic effects of uncontrolled wildfires on citizens, infrastructure, and property. If the JFSP Plan needs to be revised to accomplish this, then let’s get it done.

Typos, let us know HERE. And, please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

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+

11 thoughts on “Joint Fire Science Program produces map of firefighter burnovers”

  1. Bill, thanks so much for this map and information on these fires, really good stuff. I was able to pull up a fire where a incident had occured and was able to figure out what and who was involved. Gibson Creek Fire, 1977, Washington State. Thanks again for the great job!

    1. Bill thanks!
      Chris Skinner, your mention of the Gibson Creek fire in Washington caught my attention. It sounded familiar but I couldn’t place it, so looked it up on the Story map. I looked at all the fires in southern Washington before checking those up in the Okanogan and finding Gibson Creek. I down loaded the report, started reading, and it all came flooding back.

      I was on the Fish Lake fire in 1977. As you know, Gibson Creek was a long range spot fire off Fish lake. All we were told by the overhead when it happened is that they were investigating “Something”. I found out what happened a couple days later from a news paper article posted on the information bulletin board. I was shocked! I knew him. and had worked with him and his “Pasayten Trail Blazers”…Regional Reinforcement Crew…recently.

      There was no debriefing or post incident help of any kind back then. Just suck it up and go back on the line the next day. I felt sick to my stomach for the rest of my time on the fire.

      I also knew the kid on the search crew that found him. He walked up to me while I was reading the news paper article on the bulletin board and told me he was the one that had found him. The part that I have remembered all these years is he said he saw his glasses first.

      The investigation report details his excellent physical condition and knowledge of fire fighting. One thing that is not mentioned is that he had also been a smoke jumper. If I remember correctly he told me he took the job as the crew boss of the regional reinforcement crew to get a permanent appointment.

      I had never seen that report before reading it last night. After 43 years I feel some closure now.

      1. Suck it up indeed! This sort of macho insanity gets people killed unnecessarily. It is the first resort of the insecure.

      2. Hi Tom, I came across the monument that was built when I was assigned to the Tripod Fire back in 2006. Was traveling to my assignment and came across the monument on my way there. Lonely and off the beaten track, and for some reason, it has stuck with me all these years, was delighted to read your post and get that much more info on a fellow firefighter who gave his all. Thanks again, Tom

      3. Ron was my Half Brother as I lived with his family for many years as well as grew up with him. We both started our fire careers on the Okanogan N F. I was the AFMO on the Conconully R D as we hired both Ron Neely and Mike Adams to run the Regional Re-enforcement Crew. Ron and Mike were Smoke Jumpers from NCSB out of Winthrop. Also Ron, Mike & I we’re all Classmates at Okanogan High School and all spent many days together as we grew up. Ironically, Mike Adams got killed exactly 10 years after Ron’s death. Ironically, I hired another dear friend for that crew to work for Ron and Mike by the name of Paul Gleason, who was my counterpart as Deputy Regional FMO for the NPS. Denny Neely, Ron’s brother was one of the folks who found him and was also on the Fire Crew that day. He was also someone I lived with for many years. Should not of been on the search party! We talked about this day up to his passing last year 2019. I spoke at the Fish Lake Ron Neely Memorial as at the time I was the Pacific Northwest Regional FMO, later to become the Deputy Western Regional FMO for the National Park Service out of San Francisco and Seattle. Paul Gleason and I had many discussions about this sad day! My wife and I have an endowment at CSU in Fort Collins and do a Wildfire Paul Gleason Memorial Scholarship there for Paul. We also do a Ron Neely Wildfire Memorial Scholarship each year at Freeman High School just South of Spokane where Kelly Neely, Ron’s little Brother teaches & is a Coach there! I am 72 years old now and am the only one left that am still learning & listening from many of the same mistakes made over 35 years of being involved with Fire Management. Huge change over the years with fire fighter attitudes as relates to fire suppression activities. Becoming “A Student of Fire “ takes many years, but it seems Fire Fighters today want it all right now without a full understanding of the “depth & time” required to become not only an expert in Fire Management but fully understand the complexity and scope of the job! It seems today its allot about “sensationalization” and the “heroics” of Fire get in the way of fully understanding a professional approach to managing all aspects of “Wildland Fire Management”! Just a personal observation that I’m sure could be open for dispute, given the amount of effort and dollars we continue to dedicate toward “attempting” to our understanding of Fire Environments. Ironically, “Fire is as natural as Rain”, which often puts the fire out NOT us! We do a good job assisting the natural processes at play! Thanks for the opportunity to give some personal thoughts on the subject of “Wildland Fire” and especially Ron Neely & Paul Gleason, who are dear to my heart! Ken Till, Retired 35 Years, Deputy Regional Fire Mgt. Officer, Pacific West Region, National Park Service

        1. Ken, thanks for that! especially the part about the “Sensationalization and the heroics”. I worked as an FBAN for 14 years as USFS employee and another 12 years as an AD. It was on the Okanogan complex in 2012 that I decided that that would be my last fire ever.

        2. Ken, you should write this up as an Op-Ed for the New York Times! If they don’t take it, keep trying other papers.

          I’m 82, but you have more experience.


          1. Wayne, I appreciate you comments as I belong to several professional Wildland Fire Management organizations and thought often about writing as I did several congressional briefs in regards to our lack of understanding about the affects of fire upon watersheds and Wildland Urban Interfaces here in the Pacific Northwest as well as though out the West in general. Fire Effects upon the landscapes are both personal and biological in nature but still just as natural as “Rain”. I wish folks would understand the true meaning of Fire Ecology as it relates to how we live with it and without Fire in our environment. I truly view fire more “holistically” as well as ecologically as most folks, therefore probably get labeled as an environmentalist. Had the opportunity over the years to work and listen to great “Fire Ecologist” such as Jim Agee, from the Univ. of Washington, Steve Arno, DeBano, Bob Mutch, Steve Pyne, Bob Martin, Kilgore, Albini, Van Wagner and so so very many more over the years as new faces and new scientist continue to study Fire upon our landscapes. I did research in “Biogeochemistry of the Transformation and Translocation of Nutrients in the Basin Big Sage Ecosystems following fire upon the landscape. Learned just how important “Soils” were as fire has the most profound effect on the “substrate of life” the “Soils”! The above ground biomass is dependent on those CECs (Cation Exchange Capabilities of the Soils) to achieve what we see “above ground”, i.e. trees and all the vegetation that occupies our environment which is vital for our Watersheds as well as our “Airsheds”. You sound interesting. Allot of smart people in the world but not too many “Wise” ones. You seem to be a “Wise Person”. Thanks again for your comments. I still stay on the cutting edge of what is going on with Wildland Fires these days! Get’s in your blood!

            1. I had to leave the USFS for the military in 1962. In the seventies I did some park work, but developed a workable approach to ecosystem restoration; hung out my shingle in 1979 and made a living that way for 21 years. With respect to “Biogeochemistry of the Transformation and Translocation of Nutrients in the Basin Big Sage Ecosystems,” I’ve got some ideas about cheat grass displacement and fire.

              I hope you will continue to post, but an alternative would be Whisky Tango seven-five-zero Mike Victor Alpha Tango Golf Mike Alpha India Lima DOT Cocoa Oscar Metro.

              I rounded up a “task force” of reps from the region’s fire services after the Kitchen Creek Fire, only to have our report quashed by the Honorable Mayor.

  2. How about some focus on shooting target shooting gun use related to ignitions don’t let the Second Amendment for the NRA keep your from looking into that

  3. Bill, I agree with the need, but JFSP is only a part of the funds expended on wildfire research. There’s NOAA, NASA, NSF, USGS, NIFA and so on. I’d start with an overall review for duplication and gaps, and then figure out if the FS itself or JFSP is the best place to house a specific research program targeted for firefighter safety.

    About 30 years ago now, I worked in Research in DC for the Forest Service. I helped Dave Cleaves do a review of our fire research program. It seemed to be all over the map; not exactly rando, but not targeted either. Seemed to be based on the druthers of scientists we hired. Perhaps a good idea for the new Administration to review all agencies wildland fire research for gaps and duplication.

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