US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
You are here: Home / People / Profile


Bret W. Butler

Research Mechanical Engineer
5775 Highway 10 West
United States

Phone: 406-329-4801
Contact Bret W. Butler

Current Research

Wildland fire is a fascinating and complex phenomenon. My current research focuses on the development of new understanding into the fundamental physics governing wildland fire ignition, spread, and intensity, along with improved methods for quantifying wildland fire intensity using in-situ instrumentation. I am particularly interested in quantifying how wind and slope affect fire behavior. The applications for this work include public and firefighter safety, improved capability to predict fire behavior, and the development of new tools, guides, and methods for understanding and managing fire more effectively.

Research Interests

My primary research interests include the development of tools for simulating wind flow at fine resolution, fire induced tree mortality, and improvement of existing firefighter safety zone guidelines. I am the lead scientist for the quantitative safety zone guidelines used throughout the world. I am also the lead scientist for the high resolution surface wind models that have been developed by the US Forest Service.

Past Research

Wildland fire is a complex process that involves biology, chemistry, fluid dynamics and energy transfer. It is an everpresent phenomena in many natural ecosystems. Advances in our understanding of the fundamental physics governing fire facilitate improved methods and tools for managing fire safely and effectively. In the past I have developed tools for predicting the effects of fire on trees and shrubs. Particularly effects of plant mortality caused by heating and necrosis of the cambiuam layer of the plant stem. This work has wide application to wildland fire management where managers are attempting to enhance or exclude a particular species through regular management practices.

Why This Research is Important

One of the fascinations of wildland fire is its complexity. This also leads to its associated danger. Much of the my work focuses on providing improved tools and methods for understanding and effectively and safely using fire as a ecological managmeent tool. Information, methods, and guidelines developed in my work are being used around the world to manage fire with less risk and greater success.


  • Brigham Young University, Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis on energy transport in particle-laden flames. 1992
  • Brigham Young University, M.S. Cum Laude Mechanical Engineering 1988
  • Brigham Young University, B.S. Mechanical Engineering 1986

Professional Organizations

  • International Journal of Wildland Fire (1998 - Current)
    The Editorial Advisory Committee, provides strategic direction to the International Journal of Wildland Fire. Members meet 1-2 times per year. Dr. Butler has been a committee member since 1998 and served as chair of the committee for several years in the early 2000s. Dr. Butler also serves as an associate editor for the Journal.

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Forest Service Researchers Focus on Firefighter Safety

Wildland firefighters continue to be injured or killed in fire entrapments. Past entrapment data indicates that policy changes, work practices, ...


Improving firefighter escape route mapping through LiDAR-based analysis

Wildland fires place firefighters in a dangerous working environment and their safety relies on knowing the safest pathways to a safety zone bef ...


To Masticate or Not to Masticate: Useful tips for Treating Vegetation

Recently, several large fires have burned through masticated sites in Colorado, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere. Burning under extreme weat ...


Last updated on : 05/12/2021