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Professor Wins 2013 Wildland Fire Leadership Award

April 15, 2014

MISSOULA – University of Montana Professor Carl Seielstad recently earned the 2013 Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award from a national interagency wildfire committee.

The Lead by Example Award is given to firefighters who are exceptional mentors and leaders. In selecting him for the award, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group leadership subcommittee noted Seielstad’s visionary leadership. He is the first UM faculty member to receive the honor.

Seielstad has more than 20 years of operational fire experience as a Hotshot crew member, smoke jumper and type 3 incident commander. He earned his doctorate from UM in 2003, is a faculty member in the College of Forestry and Conservation and a research program leader at the National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis.

Casey Teske, fire scientist at the National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis, nominated Seielstad for the award.

According to UM graduate student Tyson Atkinson, not all universities understand the dilemma students face in scheduling and training for school versus fighting fire.

“Carl has made that tension the essence of his efforts at UM,” Atkinson said. “In his vision, learning opportunities in the field are vital to giving students the principles and values of a motivated and safe wildland firefighter.

“Carl’s unique ability to cross scientific and management boundaries have had major impacts on the careers of those fortunate enough to work with him.”

In 2008, Seielstad established the prescribed fire practicum, a service-learning course for undergraduate and graduate students. He partners with The Nature Conservancy in Georgia to bring six to 10 students to the southeastern United States each January to run prescribed burns that restore longleaf pine habitat. More than 50 UM students have participated in the prescribed fire practicum.

In 2011, Seielstad led the College of Forestry and Conservation to establish and gain approval for a minor in wildland fire sciences and management. Since autumn semester 2013, UM students can work toward a minor in fire science and management or a bachelor’s in science of resource conservation with a wildland fire emphasis.

Seielstad advises 10 graduate students annually and is the adviser of the student chapter of the Association for Fire Ecology. Originally from West Virginia, he completed his bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth College and earned his master’s degree in geography from the University of Georgia. He most recently jumped from the McCall Smokejumper base in McCall, Idaho, and has served as incident commander on various wildfires, including the Conger fire outside Seeley Lake in 2007, and the Langille fire in Washington state in 2009.

The award is named for Paul Gleason, who was a wildland fire leader whose career spanned several decades before he died in 2003. Among many accomplishments, he developed the LCES concept (Lookout, Communication, Escape Routes, Safety Zones) that is now a foundation of firefighter safety.

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Contact: Leana Schelvan, director of communications, UM College of Forestry and Conservation, 406-243-6693, leana.schelvan@umontana.edu.