Mark A. Finney

Research Forester

The Behavior of Fire

Fighting forest fires by man enlarges the risk of having such wildfires. It is what Research Forester and US Forest Service fire expert Mark Finney calls the ‘fire paradox’. ‘Extinguishing 10 to 20 small fires will leave lots of potential fuel on the ground for a new, much bigger fire,’ he explains.

Since 1993, Finney has worked at the Rocky Mountain Research Station Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana on fire behavior, fire growth modeling and risk analysis, and landscape fuel management. He leads a fire behavior research team to discover fundamental physical explanations for wild land fire behavior using laboratory and field-scale experiments. It means he is entitled to start many fires and even gets paid for it. ‘Not bad, don’t you think?’ he says.

Finney was responsible for the development and transfer of existing fire models to the national internet-based Wildland Fire Decision Support System. With his team, he discovered a new mechanism of a spreading fire. Not radiant heat, as always thought, spreads a fire in a forest. Instead, it is the convection of hot air that sets leaves on the ground, small twigs and bushes on fire. This is crucial information in an era with growing amounts of wildfires.

Finney holds a Ph.D. in wildland fire science from University of California at Berkeley (1991), an M.S. in Fire Ecology from University of Washington (1986), and a B.S. in Forestry from Colorado State University (1984). Before taking his current position, he spent seven years as a research scientist and consultant, and two years as a fire ecologist with Sequoia National Park.

Research, Fire, Forester, Sarasota 2017