Gabbert-1972Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert‘s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of,, and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire.

If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Oh, and by the way, this picture was taken in 1972 when I was on the El Cariso Hot Shots.


Interviews with Bill Gabbert

  • National Public Radio station in Boston, the Here and Now program. The main topic was aerial firefighting. (July 4, 2012)
  • National Public Radio’s The Story hosted by Dick Gordon; a wide-ranging interview. Mr. Gordon got Mr. Gabbert to talk about refusing a fire assignment, managing fires rather than putting them out, the work he did recently in Portugal, air tankers, the state of the 2012 wildfire season, and he prompted him to tell some war stories from early in his career. (September 19, 2012)
  • Progressive Radio Network’s On the Green Front, with host Betsy Rosenburg. The topic was the current state of the 2013 wildfire season and how climate change may be affecting wildland fires. (August 21, 2013)
  • Colorado Matters, with host Ryan Warner on Colorado Public Radio. The program was about the proposals for the state to obtain helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to assist in suppressing wildfires. Mr. Gabbert’s interview is from 7:25 to 14:30. (April 8, 2014)





43 thoughts on “Author”

  1. Hi Bill, I had dinner with Greg Greenhoe and Rich Wands the other night and they said you had this website up and going. I have not had a chance to really look at it but my initial reaction is good job with this. The picture of you looks familiar – from the CNF perhaps?
    Scott vail

    1. Hi Scott, thanks, and good to hear from you. Yes, it’s a very old picture from 1972 when I was one of the foremen on the El Cariso Hot Shots on the Cleveland National Forest in southern California.

  2. Hello Bill —

    Just sent a bunch of Clif Bars to the ECHS. Found their address etc. through the ECHS Facebook group, which is worth joining.

    Hope this finds you well.

    Bruce Lymburn

    1. Hi Bruce-

      It’s been a while since we worked on the El Cariso Hot Shots together. Good to hear from you. I had to Google “Clif Bar”, but I’m sure the Hot Shots will appreciate them. Sounds much better than the ham on white bread sandwiches we used to eat on the fireline.

      El Cariso’s Facebook page, and their Blog.

    2. Bruce!

      Do you still carry a small broom with you? Ha! I seem to recall there were a few jokes floating around. But honestly, I don’t think many people understand how critical a CLEAN line in chaparral is. It’s just that, well uh, there wasn’t much heft to that fire tool. Nice to hear from you via WT.

      Oh. While dispensing cookies to the El Cariso crew a few days ago, one of the guys mentioned Dennis Baldridge. Never a social animal, I, names long since faded are beginning to flesh out. Cool!

      Is that me? Bottom, 3rd from right? I just don’t recall working a hook a lot but I think that’s my smile. I’m just not sure. And where and/or what fire was that? What the hell am I talking about?!

      Lone Ranger

      1. Bruce. Apologies! Middle of the night I awoke and realized you weren’t the “broom”. I do remember you though. It took several minutes of “disturbed-sleep-thought” to come up with yet another long forgotten name…. Rick(?) Bondar. Yes. Ring a bell? Note pad and broom. Or need I hang up my 1972 ECHS memories and recollections?

        Lone Ranger

        1. No worries, mate. But yes, I did carry that broom around, as a badge of honor. Goofy I know, but heck, in those days I was young and weird. (Now I’m old and weird, or so my kids tell me….). Anyway, Rich Bondar was the broom holder before me, and I’m sure Rich would agree that the broom was a most practical and excellent piece of firefighting equipment, as long as it did not catch on fire. Rich’s story after the ECHS was a sad one, but I’ll leave that for another post.

          Anyway, Lone Ranger, do you have another monicker, perhaps used back in the day? I’m having trouble remembering “Lone Ranger”….

  3. Yo Bruce! I can’t recall any crew related monikers (ECHS, Pike and Roosevelt Hot Shots, BLM out of Glenwood Springs, CO)… other than what I overheard some Papagos refer to us as on a bus headed into an AZ fire back in ’68 or ’69, Hot ****s. I’m quite certain there were some choice words spoken of me at times. I like to think of myself as a black sheep.

    I prefer to remain anonymous rather than incognito. I suppose because I’m pretty solitary even though for many years as a State Park Ranger park visitors/recreationists/party kids kept me anything but solitary during my 8-12 hour shifts. A few fellow employees referred to me as the Lone Ranger because that is how I preferred patrolling the Anza-Borrego Desert… alone, even on weekend enforcement night shifts. Such grand times! I hung up my gun and Super Man cape and went underground when I retired.

    You aren’t old. Just older. I figure old is when you die.

    I thought Rich and Dirk Muntean(?) went into a nursery business for a while.

    As for having trouble remembering… wait a few more years!


    1. I worked in ABDSP ’74 thru ’78, then on the Descanso RD, Cleveland NF until 1985. I worked as a park aide Sept thru May those four seasons. Do we know each other?

  4. Bill,
    I agree with your writing regarding the Saddler Fire back in August of 1999. I do wonder what Tom S. and Tim H. is doing now. I hope they are in good health. I think back on this incident often, and I try and use it as a tool to help others. As a matter of fact I have just finished a discusion on the incident today. It puts me in a not so good mood but I get over it. I am still fighting fire and am very happy. I cant think of a better job.
    Thanks again
    Ty Deaton

  5. I am glad–because I just shared- a lot!
    Searching for info on Bokeelia fire in Florida ( I live here ) and Lower North Fork ( my Son’s family in Fort Collins). Yours is the absolute best info for forecast maps AND fire updates I could find on the whole web!
    Thanx. Bookmarked for a looong hot! summer.

  6. Thanks for your site, Bill. We have a cabin in the Willow Creek Canyon. So far, it’s safe. The ones that burned are to the east of us. But, our place is still in danger. One of the rangers sent me a note last night that there were forest service sprinklers going along the northern border of the fire. At the time, he said that the fire was within 100 yards of our place. Keep the reports coming. We appreciate you.

  7. Dittos on the web site. Good, current information. Have to say, I am envious of your current location. I spent some time up in Rapid City a few years ago working on some litigation and what a pleasant change from CA. Time moves at a different speed up there. Keep up the good job.

    Best wishes, Craig

  8. Haven’t seen any updates on the current Montana fires? We have the Ash Creek by Ashland, MT burning at 120,000 acres. Worst Montana fire ever. Then also the Dahl Fire by Roundup burning at 22,000 acres.

  9. Thanks for the website, and your info. I check your site several times a year.
    yeah, I was one of those “blacklisted” off of They Said. I thought unfairly, too. An anonymous hotshot firefighter sent an email to “Ab” saying they thought some things weren’t on the up and up with our son’s death (Caleb Hamm, LODD 7/7/11). They blasted that person and me in a private email message, said if the info came from me, then it was unreliable, at best. I proceeded to copy all the anonymous emails we have rec’d to them, but no dice. Guess if you don’t agree with them, you don’t get to voice an opinion.
    Thanks for your reporting. Keeps me in tune with what is going on out there.
    Come summer, it will be two years since we have lost Caleb,(and almost one year since his friend Ronnie, a pilot who went down last June) and still no answers. Juan Palma flew here to Boise in September to ask us this question: “what do you know”. What kind of question is that? Still, no answers, not that I ever expect any now. BLM is NOT interested in safety procedures changing, they would rather cover up and save themselves from any possible blame. I would have never allowed my son to work in such unsafe conditions, had I only known how poorly the BLM is ran.

  10. I think I was able to set up an avatar……….Love the site. I really enjoy reading the names of some of the posters, lots of practical experience out there!

  11. I saw your interview on The Weather Channel last night and it was great! Good job. They should have talked to you longer.

  12. Has the National Forest Service considered using military Fire/Air Explosive (FAE) bombs to extinguish (oxygen removal thru blowout) forest fires? Oil Well Fire Suppression Specialist use the same principle to put out (blow out) oil well fires using nitroglycerin. Seems to me the Forest Service, working in conjunction with DOD, could manufacture a device tailored to the fire area to remove the oxygen. Then follow up with a tanker(s) water drop to prevent reflash. Has this ever been considered for field laboratory testing?

    1. A wellhead fire might be about the size of your kitchen sink. Scale this up for a wildfire large enough to challenge conventional suppression tools and I’m thinking you’d be into the range of

      Probably a bit smaller, so, say several megatons? I don’t carry that much fuel on my engine. Also, while that might put your fire out in Idaho, the people in Montana might complain. That’s not even starting to talk about collateral effects.

      I’m no expert with any of this technology, but I’d be surprised to hear that there were field tests being planned.

  13. I have read your comments regarding the deployment of the PCADS system.
    I am a novice here, but it would seem like such a system, or one like it would be beneficial, especially at night. Just thinking outside the box here.

  14. Don’t know if you remember me ? I just saw your name mentioned in the Redding, CA. newspaper. They spelled it wrong but thought I’d try to find you. Don’t know if you knew that Ron Campbell passed away in April of this year. He and I remained friends after our divorce. He had mentioned you over the years and I know he thought a lot of you. I still remember some of the names of the guys on the crews. Those years were a significant part of my life. Our son Kevin who started kindergarten in Elsinore is now 49 years old and a successful business owner in Reno, NV. Congratulations on your successful career also. Hope to get a reply from you. Regards Diana Ellison

  15. Congrats on flipboard mag. I had been reflipping some of your articles into my flipboard mag
    Titled Parks and Outdoors by osogrito
    It has articles about national parks, forests, and outdoor activities.
    We met afew times.I was on Incident Mgmt Teams and at Yellowstone before retirement
    Mona Divine

  16. Hi bill, you have a familiar face… Have we ever met in Italy or any international mission? Any way, I’m Alex Captain on CL 415 superscooper. You Made a great job, take care…

  17. Hello Sir.

    I was wondering if you could help me with a question.

    Two years ago I was shown a video during training of a near miss of a helicopter and crew. The video was taken by Air Attack. It also included the conversation between AA and the helo pilot who was on the ground, rotors turning. Fire was approaching quickly to the helicopter, and AA was advising the helo pilot to tell the crewmembers to hurry up or they would burn over.

    Do you have any recollection of this? If I could find out which incident, or where to find the footage that would be great. I’ve looked everywhere.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. I believe it was the “Bull Fire” in NorCal back in the 1980’s; the folks from the Missoula Fire Lab were filming IR shots of retardant drops, and caught this one live; the helicopter pilot was seriously pissed off when his crew didn’t get back on board in a timely manner! The video used to be available thru PMS at NIFC; now, Lessons Learned Center?

  18. The Bull Fire in Modoc County CA occurred in 1998. The CD is NEFES #1221. I think it is no longer available fro Boise.
    I use it in S-290 classes to illustrate the effect of passing cells. Also, in S-230 classes for case study on crew cohesion. The only negative is they used the “old” FIRE ORDERS.
    Perhaps the LLC could revise it and put it in their excellent library of resources?
    John Barbour

  19. Thanks for the summary. The ” forest” of government websites and information can be hard for civilians to maneuver through!

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