The official blog of the Joint Fire Science Program

The official blog of, the Interagency Joint Fire Science Program.

January 5, 2012

37 Year Journey for Safety

My first permanent job with the Forest Service was as a crew member on the Palomar Hotshots on the Cleveland National Forest in 1975.  We learned through the telling of stories by our foremen and superintendents with a large dose of practical experience.   I hope you will take a few moments to allow me to tell a story that means a lot to me and I hope to you as well.

The Cleveland had its share of fatalities starting with the Inaja Fire that resulted in the 10 Standard Firefighting orders.  My engine foreman Red Wilson survived the Decker Fire on the Ortega Highway of the Trabuco District.  The Loop Fire tragedy on the Angeles changed how we think about downhill line construction.  

From the 1970’s fires in southern California, research developed Firescope which became the Incident Command System first deployed on the Pacoima Fire. In 1975, Clive Countryman wrote a paper called “The Nature of Heat”(pdf). Although I went to school at Humboldt State University, there were no classes in wildland fire science.  This stuff was new!  The Nature of Heat was written in understandable language with numerous illustrations.  Just the kind of publication a Hotshot crew could use. 

In 1978, Carl C. Wilson and James C. Sorenson wrote a pamphlet titled “Some Common Denominators of Fire Behavior on Tragedy and Near-Miss Forest Fires (pdf)”.  This work forever changed the discussions about wildland firefighter safety.  Dick Rothermel’s Spread Model, Behave and the Ti59 soon followed and we could model fires in the field.  Paul Gleason repackaged how we think about fire safety with LCES – Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes and Safety Zones.  And Brett Butler has helped us understand how big a safety zone really needs to be and that rock pile I used so many times may not have been really safe.

In spite of these and many other pieces of research, fire fatalities continue.  An often heard phrase in these near-miss and fatal fires is, “the fire behavior was unexpected” or “it blew up.”  I’m pleased to announce new research insight for wildland firefighters about Extreme Fire Behavior with the JFSP sponsored publication of Synthesis of Knowledge of Extreme Fire Behavior: Volume 1 for Fire Managers (pdf).  

An even more detailed second volume will be published soon. I ask that all wildland firefighters download the document.  Spend time this winter learning about this subject that is central to everything we do. The Fire Behavior Committee will make changes in fire training based on this information and I urge due speed.  

Most importantly tell your own stories with your crews, unit, or post your thoughts here on  All this month we will post the “classics” about fire behavior on our website and I hope you find them useful.  

Experience may be the best teacher, but it helps a lot to have the wisdom of science on your side too.  

Be Safe,

Tim Swedberg
Communications Director
Joint Fire Science Program

January 4, 2012

On Fire: New Joint Fire Science Program Blog

Palomar Hotshots during the Gamboa Fire in the Los Padres National Forest 1980

My name is Tim Swedberg and I'm the Communications Director for the Joint Fire Science Program. I'm the big guy in the back row on the right.

We've been busy working behind the scenes at JFSP to improve the way we communicate with the wildland fire community, and to give you easier ways to connect to us. After fifteen months of researching how we can best serve you in the 21st century, I'm proud to announce the result of our efforts: 

You'll find a fresh, new look, a new logo, easier navigation and search functions, and links to all the new channels for staying up to date with the latest science findings and wildland fire management tools.

Our intent is to engage you in conversations about wildland fire science and management. If you can’t find what you're looking for, just ask and we will help as best we can.  Need local experts?  Check out our Regional Consortia in your neck of the woods.

Don’t hesitate to tell us how to improve or what you like. Let us know by commenting on and sharing this new blog. You can also subscribe to our Enews, and join the ever-expanding wildland fire conversation that’s taking place via social media right now. Follow us on Twitter, or join us on Facebook to take advantage of important information published daily.  Don't miss a word! 

Keep Smilin',
Tim Swedberg
Communications Director