Colorado State Forest Service employee Pete Barry recognized for leadership in wildland firefighting field

Mike Lester, head of the Colorado State Forest Service, presents Pete Barry with the Paul Gleason Lead by Example award
Pete Barry is presented with the Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award by Mike Lester, director of the Colorado State Forest Service. Photo: CSFS

Pete Barry, geographic information specialist for the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS), has received the Paul Gleason Lead by Example Award for providing leadership in the ranks of wildland firefighting. The national award, sponsored by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, recognizes individuals and groups who set the example through practice of the wildland fire leadership values and principles.

Barry was recognized specifically for his leadership in the “Mentoring and Teamwork” category, due to his critical work in the development and continued support of the Colorado State University Student Firefighter Association, based in the Warner College of Natural Resources.

Although Barry has not been active on the front lines for some time, he was a wildland firefighter for decades, starting with the CSFS Boulder District in the 1970s and later serving on the Arrowhead Hotshot crew based in California. While working for CSU and the Colorado State Forest Service in more recent years, he helped create the Student Firefighter Association while teaching graduate-level classes and completing his own graduate work. The group’s vision is to embody Paul Gleason’s “Student of Fire” concept and connect students studying wildfire science to career opportunities.

“The fact that Pete completed his active fireline career so long ago, yet continues to enthusiastically live by the strong principles and values of the wildland leadership program and advocate for younger generations of firefighters speaks volumes,” said Esther Godson, project management officer for the U.S. Forest Service National Technology & Development Program. Godson was among those involved in nominating Barry, and worked alongside him in the creation of the Student Firefighter Association.

Barry was recognized for securing numerous cooperative agreements with other agencies to provide opportunities for future professional students of fire. He also played a key role in ensuring that the Paul Gleason Wildland Firefighter Scholarship – which from 2003 to 2014 successfully enabled nine students to pursue studies within the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship – has remained fully endowed. Barry worked with Gleason’s family to achieve long-term funding for the scholarship, actively pursuing and coordinating donors so that it would be available to future students of fire.

The award’s namesake, Paul Gleason, is an enduring legend in the wildfire community. He began a four-decade wildland fire career at age 18 when he took a job on a hotshot crew in southern California. In the years that followed, he became a dedicated student and teacher of fire, and is perhaps best known for developing the firefighting safety protocol referred to as “LCES” (Lookouts, Communications, Escape routes, Safety zones), which is now taught to all wildland firefighters. Gleason later served at CSU as an adjunct professor of fire science until an untimely death from cancer in 2003.

“I am so humbled to receive this award,” Barry said. “The Warner College of Natural Resources has been at the forefront of understanding the science behind wildland fire for many years, largely to help ensure firefighter safety, and I am just one of many more-deserving professionals who have been a part of this.”