Innovations to the National Fire Danger Rating System recognized with prestigious award

Left to Right: RMRS Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Program Manager Colin Hardy, Meteorologist Larry Bradshaw, and Research Ecologist Matt Jolly, and Shane Olpin, National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Forest Service photo Audrey Peterson.

COLORADO – Scientists Dr. Matt Jolly and Larry Bradshaw of the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station received the most prestigious award offered by the wildland fire community for their efforts to modernize and improve the National Fire Danger Rating System.

The Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award is given by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which represents the entire wildland fire community, including federal agencies, states, tribes, and more. The award recognizes those who set the example through leadership and practice of the wildland fire leadership values and principles and to those who stand out because they are visionaries, mentors or innovators.

Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Lab released the first National Fire Danger Rating System in 1972. This system is widely used by all in wildland fire. The updated version, known as NFDRS 2016, is noted for being able to meet the needs of decision makers at all levels, while remaining simple and relevant to operational fire fighters. The new system also takes into account fuel moisture levels and improves forecasting and multiple scales.

“Larry Bradshaw has been involved in the development, operations, and maintenance of our nation’s fire danger rating system almost from its inception. For the past decade, Dr. Jolly has brought his internationally-recognized science to bear to provide a simpler, more intuitive system based on the most recent science. As a team, Jolly and Bradshaw have worked with numerous colleagues across the nation to make this new version a reality,” said Colin Hardy, leader of the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire, Fuel and Smoke Science Program. “Most significant, I think, is that these two have done much of this novel and impactful work as collateral duties – meaning it is in addition to their primary programs of work—in service to the nation’s entire wildland fire management enterprise. These employees are recognized by their peers and by top level leadership for a reason – they are making a difference in the lives of American taxpayers while advancing scientific studies at the highest level. I am immensely proud of their achievements, and grateful for their service.”