Exhibit recognizes contributions of Paul Gleason, wildfire safety pioneer

Morgan Library Archives and Special Collections is featuring an exhibit showcasing the contributions of Paul Gleason to the field of wildland fire science through Jan. 31.

Gleason contributed significant training materials to the field, especially on the topic of firefighter safety. After retiring from a career as a wildland firefighter, leader, and strategist he became a faculty member at Colorado State University in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, where a scholarship has been established in his name.

Karen Miranda Gleason donated her late husband’s papers, photographs and documents detailing events such as the Crosier Mountain prescribed fire west of Fort Collins, to Morgan Library. The collection also features Gleason’s 1991 paper, “Lookouts, Communication, Escape Routes, Safety Zones,” commonly referred to as “LCES” or “the LCES concept,” which has become the foundation of current wildland firefighter safety.

Pioneer in wildfire safety

Born in 1946 in Chicago, Illinois, to a homemaker from Seattle and a Baptist minister from Tacoma, Washington, Gleason grew up in Southern California. Becoming an accomplished rock climber in his teens, he continued to enjoy climbing throughout his life. Correspondence between Gleason and his father often refers to his love of the outdoors and mountaineering.

Gleason’s career as a firefighter began in 1964 in the Angeles National Forest as an 18-year-old member of the Dalton Hotshot Crew. He served with that crew through 1970, interrupted only by a one-year tour of duty with the U.S. Army. From 1971 to 1973, he attended Colorado State University and earned a degree in mathematics.

In 1974, Gleason returned to work as a firefighter, serving as the assistant foreman for a Regional Reinforcement Crew on the Okanogan National Forest. In 1977, he became the assistant superintendent of the ZigZag Hotshot Crew at Mount Hood National Forest, moving into the position of superintendent two years later.

Student of Fire Exhibit

Archives and Special Collections
Morgan Library Room 202
Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m
through Jan. 31, 2018
Free and open to the public

Student of Fire poster

Gleason began work as a district fire management officer for the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest in 1992, eventually becoming the forest fire ecologist. In 1999, he moved to the position of deputy fire management officer for the Rocky Mountain Region of the National Park Service. Mandatory retirement  in 2001 sent Gleason into academia at age 55. He served as an adjunct professor for the Wildland Fire Science program at Colorado State University for two years before losing his battle with cancer in 2003.

Gleason received numerous awards and recognitions throughout his career. He was heavily involved in three significant fires: the Loop Fire in 1966, the Dude Fire in 1990, and the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000.