Jerry Williams

Jerry Williams

Program on Crisis Leadership (PCL) Fellow
Wildland fire management, national incident management, multi-agency coordination

Jerry Thomas Williams is the retired National Director of Fire & Aviation Management, United States Forest Service.

Mr. Williams began his work in wildland fire as a firefighter with the United States Forest Service in 1969. He earned his master’s degree in forest fire sciences from the University of Washington in 1979. Early in his career, he was a smokejumper for seven years. He has served in fire-related supervisory, management and administrative positions at the district, forest, regional, and national levels. He has broad experience working across the full range of wildland fire management areas at the wildland-urban interface, general forest lands, and wilderness. He has had extensive experience working on and with Area Commands, National Incident Management Teams, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, and Multi-agency Coordinating Groups during some of this country’s most significant wildfire events and other all-risk crises.

While with the federal government, Mr. Williams introduced innovative concepts and authored several papers aimed at strengthening wildland fire programs and policies at the strategic level. He was recruited into the Senior Executive Service and became the Forest Service National Director of Fire & Aviation Management in 2001. While in the position, much of his work emphasized the importance of disaster mitigation and the need to better align land management policies with the dynamics of fire-prone ecosystems as the means to better protect people, sustain natural resource values, and avert high-consequence wildfire emergencies.

Since retiring from the Forest Service, Mr. Williams continues to write, advise and speak on wildland fire management topics. He worked under contract with The Brookings Institution to explore the factors predisposing the mega-fire phenomenon. He has volunteered his expertise with federal wildland agencies, the Kennedy School of Government, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Australasia’s Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre and universities here and abroad. In 2012, Williams published “Exploring the Onset of High-Impact Mega-Fires Through a Forest Land Management Prism” in the journal Forest Ecology and Management. In 2014, he gave the keynote address at the first international large fire conference.

Jerry and his wife Greta have two children and two grandchildren. They have been married for 40 years and make their home in Missoula, Montana.