Featured Presenters

Tom ZimmermanWelcome and Opening Remarks

Tom Zimmerman, IAWF President & Conference Co-Chair, Retired Program Manager, Wildland Fire Management Research, Development, and Application Program, Rocky Mountain Research Station, U.S. Forest Service

Tom has worked at multiple federal land management agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and US Forest Service.  His permanent assignments include positions as Forester, Fire Control Officer, Fire Management Officer, State Fire Management Planning Specialist, Regional Fire Management Officer, Fire Technology Specialist, Fire Science and Ecological Applications Program Leader, Regional Director of Fire and Aviation Management, and Wildland Fire Management RD&A Program Manager. Tom has conducted training in the United States, China, Canada, and India, and presented papers, either in person or virtually, at conferences in the United States, Canada, Italy, South Africa, and Cyprus.

Wildland fire and emergency response constituted a major focus area and Tom has over 30 years of involvement in incident management team operations including service as an Incident Commander and Area Commander on wildland fire incidents and all hazard emergency responses across the country.


Kevin Martin, Forest Service, DKevinMartin irector Fire, Fuels & Aviation Management, Alaska & PNW Regions

Kevin is the Director of Fire, Fuels and Aviation for both the Alaska and Pacific Northwest Regions of the United States Forest Service (Alaska, Oregon and Washington States)

He was the Forest Supervisor on the Umatilla National Forest for 10 years and the Deputy Forest Supervisor on the Deschutes before that. Kevin was a member of the National Fire Line Officer Team for many of those years. He helped create and served as a coach for Agency Administrators at the National Fire Training Center on the Advanced Incident Management (S-520) course and has assisted Units and coached Agency Administrators across the west. He was the national lead for the Forest Service for re-working National Fire Management Leadership. He is on the Board of Directors for the Eastside Restoration Strategy, past chair of the Oregon Geographic Board and then a member of the NW Geographic Board.

The Pacific Northwest Region consists of 16 National Forests in Oregon and Washington. There are 59 District Offices, a National Scenic Area, and a National Grassland. The Alaska Region consists of two national forests, the Tongass, and the Chugach National Forest; however, they are the largest national forests in the Country. The Chugach surrounds Prince William Sound and is near Anchorage. The Tongass includes the islands and mainland of southeastern Alaska and surrounds the towns of Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Petersburg, Wrangell, Yakutat and Skagway.

Wicked Fire, Sweet Solutions (Live streamed to Melbourne)
Ron Steffens, Green Mountain College & Conference Co-chair Steffens_Fire_Photo

Ron Steffens is a professor of communications at Green Mountain College where he focuses on non-fiction writing and environmental communications. He advises student media and is a thesis coordinator in the college’s online Master’s program in environmental studies. Ron has been based out of Teton National Park since 1992 where he supports Teton Interagency Fire as a fire monitor, incident commander, and fire analyst. He began his fire career as a fire lookout in Patagonia, Arizona and continued with seasonal positions in Saguaro National Park, where he served as fire effects monitor and lead of a backcountry fire crew.


Fire is the Problem and Fire is the Solution Fire is the Problem and Fire is the Solution

Dr Kevin Tolhurst AM, Assoc. Prof., Fire Ecology and Management, Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne (Live streamed from Melbourne)

Kevin Tolhurst is Associate Professor in Fire Ecology and Management in the Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne based in Creswick.Kevin_Tolhurst2332picture-smaller

Kevin has developed a professional reputation by providing expert advice on fire behaviour and fire suppression strategies at major bushfires. Some examples include the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, and the Great Divide Fires in 2007. In 2015, Kevin was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of his contribution to fire science and the community over a long period.

Kevin has developed and taught a number of fire related subjects at undergraduate and post-graduate level as well as a national Fire Behaviour Analyst course for technical specialists in the fire and land management agencies.

Kevin’s current research activities are centered around developing and applying a bushfire risk management decision support systems. He has established a group of fire scientists in the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences with a range of research, fire, land management and teaching skills.


Wildland Fire: Shared Problems, Shared Solutions
Vicki Christiansen, Associate Deputy Chief for State & Private Forestry. U.S. Forest Service Vicki ChristiansenVicki Christiansen is the Associate Deputy Chief for State & Private Forestry at the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, DC. She has oversight of Fire and Aviation Management, Tribal Relations, Forest Health Protection, Cooperative Forestry and Conservation Education. She joined the Forest Service in 2010 as the Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation Management. Vicki has worked extensively on the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy bringing her experience as a line officer, land manager, wildland fire fighter and State Forester to the effort. Prior to joining the Forest Service she served as the Arizona State Forester and Director of the Arizona Division of Forestry. She was responsible for the protection of 22 million acres of state and private lands in Arizona, including wildland fire management. As State Forester, Vicki represented Arizona at the national and state level on forest health and wildland fire issues. She was Chair of the Wildland Fire Committee for the National Association of State Foresters. Vicki also served as the Washington State Forester where she had a 26 year career with Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). She started as a wildland fire fighter while still in college and held many different positions at Washington DNR with a strong emphasis in operations managing state trust lands and regulating forest practices on state and private lands in Washington State. Her first permanent position was as a forester responsible for the reforestation of state trust lands in the Mt. Saint Helens blast zone. Vicki has been a wildland fire fighter and fire manager for 36 years. She has numerous credentials in the wildland fire program with a special expertise as a fire line-blasting advisor. Vicki has a B.S. in Forest Management from the University of Washington (1983, cum laude). She is married to a Fire Chief (retired) and has two grown sons.


Panel Session: How do we make the complex tradeoffs necessary to effectively manage fuels for ecosystem health and public safety?

Moderator:  Tamara Wall, Desert Research Institute
Lynn M. Decker, North America Fire Learning Network Director, The Nature Conservancy
Zachary Prusak, The Nature Conservancy, Florida Fire Manager and Central Florida Conservation Program Director
Leland W. Tarnay, Ecologist, Air Quality, Smoke, Landscape Fire, Pacific Southwest Research Station

Lynn Decker oversees the North America Fire Learning Network as well as the broader cooperative partnership of the USDA Forest Service, Department of the Interior agencies and The Nature Conservancy. The partnership has a fourteen-year proven track record of helping to restore the Decker1nation’s forests and grasslands and to make (human) communities safer from fire. The effort serves to strengthen the ability of the partnership, its individual programs and its partners to create and demonstrate transformational change in their relationship to fire. Program elements include the Fire Learning Network (FLN), Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX), Fire Adapted Community Learning Network (FACLN) and on the ground cross-boundary implementation at scale (SPER). Lynn has extensive experience developing and executing strategy at multiple organizational levels and integrating strategic planning, science, cultural knowledge and adaptive learning to resolve key barriers to transformative resilience in fire systems. Lynn has authored several publications and served as an internal and external advisor on a variety of fire and restoration strategy planning, collaborative learning and delivery learning network topics. She also managed various teams, designed and led landscape based dynamic collaborative planning, learning events and conferences, and with core staff provides organization-wide leadership in the area of fire, people and landscapes. The Fire Learning Network has been the subject of multiple scientific publications, articles and book chapters. Previously, Lynn spent 20 years with the USDA Forest Service working at national, regional and research positions. Lynn earned a B.S. in fisheries biology from the University of California at Davis, and a M.S. in wildland resource science/freshwater ecology at the University of California at Berkeley.

Zachary Prusak has worked for The Nature Conservancy since January 2005.  In his roles, Zach Zach TCP 2014 smallersupports the members of the Conservancy’s Florida Fire Team, which consist of the on-site fire leaders and crew at places such as the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, and also supports the operations at the Disney Wilderness Preserve and Tiger Creek Preserve. Zach also works with state, federal, local and private conservation groups in order to lead and promote fire training opportunities, facilitate on-the-ground partnerships, collaborate with the Florida Governor and Cabinet on fire statutory issues while also serving as the Florida Conservancy liaison on national fire issues. The Florida Chapter recently reached their “one million acres burned since 1979” milestone on fires led or assisted by Chapter crews.

Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, Zach was the South Region Land Manager for the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, conducted fires and studied mosquito populations with the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and worked as a Biologist for the Florida Park Service.  Zach has over 27 years’ fire experience working on over 500 prescribed burns, is qualified as a RXB2, and holds both an M.S. and B.S. in Biology from the University of Central Florida.

He is also serving as the current Chair of the Central Florida Prescribed Fire Council, is an active member of both the International Association of Wildland Fire and the National Center for Science Education and is available for any voice-over work that you might have!

A literal “air” head, Leland (Lee) Tarnay, has spent most of his career on understanding and managing the effects of air pollutants on forest ecology, and of forest fire emissions on air quality. Lee received Lee Tarnayhis Bachelor of Science from University of California, Davis in biological sciences in 1995, and his Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2001, focused on the deposition of nitrogenous atmospheric pollutants to the forests and waters of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Since 2002, and up until 2015, he worked for the National Park Service as an air resource specialist, first for the National Capital Region around the Washington D.C. area, and then for the last 10 years as Yosemite National Park’s first air resource specialist. For Yosemite and now as an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Lee is working across agencies on the foundational air quality and smoke-related science that will help California forest managers increase the pace and scale of fire treatments, while improving and protecting air quality


We Have a “Wicked” Problem. How Did It Happen? Can It Be Fixed? Gary

Gary Berndt is actively involved in his community and served as City Council member and later Mayor (1988-2004). He formerly served as a County Hospital District Commissioner and the Vice President of the local Chamber of Commerce. He is also an active Rotary member and past president of the local chapter. Gary served as a Kittitas County Commissioner from 2013 until April 1, 2016 when he resigned to take a position as “Washington State Wildland Liaison” reporting to the Commissioner of Public Lands.

He was formerly employed by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (1973-2011), he retired in May 2011 as Assistant Region Manager for Resource Protection in S.E. Washington. He was responsible for wildland fire management program on State and private lands and directed prevention, preparedness, training and suppression activities. He also served as Agency Administrator and as Line Officer (agency representative) on many Type 1,2, and 3 incidents.

Gary was involved with curriculum development and course delivery nationally of the National Association of State Foresters “Complex Incident Management Course” from 2000-2010. He served as an instructor and as team coach. This course is currently S-520 equivalent for Type 1 National rating.

He was on the National Steering Committee for the development and delivery of the “Leadership of Organizations Course” known as L-480 from 2003-2006.

He was recruited and assisted in the development and delivery of an Australian Course known as the “Advanced Incident Leadership Program” which was a national course delivered once per year to 20 selected managers from across Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. The course was developed in 2001 and was been presented annually from 2002 –2012.

Gary has lived in Cle Elum, Washington with his wife, he has 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren.