The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter

The Northern California Chapter of The Explorers Club presents:

James L. Murphy, Ph.D. FN-80, Fire Science Systems Corporation

Science and Tragedy: The Science of Forest-Fire Control and the Tragedy of Forest-Fire Disasters

DINNER MEETING - Friday, April 28, 1995, Ft. Mason Officers' Club, Building One, Bay and Franklin Streets, San Francisco (see map and directions at the end)

  • 6:00 PM, Business meeting
  • 6:30 PM, Coctails
  • 7:30 PM, Dinner
  • 8:30 PM, Speaker
  • $35.00 each

    Come hear Jim present a slide-illustrated presentation on the art and science of wildland fire behavior and management

  • The wildland fire environment
  • Reasons for extreme fire behavior
  • Fuel for combustion: vegetation, houses - and people
  • Weather factors contributing to extreme fire behavior
  • Conflagrations, "blow-up" fires: a problem in atmospheric physics
  • How fire specialists predict fire behavior
  • Case study analysis of selected historical conflagrations

    About the Speaker:

    James L. Murphy worked eighteen years in fire-control jobs, including Hotshot Crew Superintendent and Helitack Foreman on national forests in California. He was leader of five different Forest Service research and development projects and was an Assistant Deputy Chief for research in Washington, D.C.

    Dr. Murphy was a professor of Forest Fire Science and Technology at the University of Washington. While at the university, he organized and led an interdisciplinary team of scientist in one of the first H.E.WW.-sponsored studies of potential air-quality impairment from forest burning.

    Murphy's international experience includes contractual work with the Republic of Chile, the state of Kerala, India, the Commonwealth of Australia including New South Wales and the Northern Territories, with the state of Catalu-ya, Spain, and the African countries of Botswana and Zimbabwe.

    Murphy has been nationally qualified Incident Commander/Fire Boss, Air Attack Group Supervisor and Fire Behavior Analyst under the National Interagency Incident Management System.

    Dr. Murphy is presently President and CEO of Fire Science Systems Corporation, a California and Boise, Idaho company specializing in wildland fire management training and development, training and prescribed fire planning and management operations.

    Murphy did undergraduate work at Oregon State University and the University of California-Berkeley, completed an M.S. at Utah State University, and a Ph.D. in National Resource Economics at the University of Michigan.

    Murphy is the author of over 130 scientific and technical publications in the fields of forest-fire control, fire ecology, fuel modification, prescribed burning, and use of aircraft in forestry and fire control.

    Jim Murphy's collection of "firsts" is extensive.

  • Led the multi-agency research, development, and application team that integrated the helicopter in forestry and forest-fire control operations
  • Organized and let the first helitack crew as part of the Wildland Fire Control Organization
  • Led the multi-disciplinary conflagration control research and development project in developing and testing guidelines for fuel break systems in the forested lands of the United States
  • Designed, administered, and taught the first formal academic program in forest-fire science and technology at the University of Washington
  • Organized and led the multi-disciplinary team that performed the first job and task analysis of the fire management function of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The present fire-management project resulted from this project
  • Led the team that designed, developed, and taught the first in-service fire management courses for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These courses included "Fire Management for Line Officers," which was designed to help refuge managers avoid the same mistakes and liabilities which resulted from the 1988 Yellowstone Ecosystem Fires.
  • Conducted the first comprehensive analysis of forest fire problems in the Republic of Chile, and led the team that wrote the first "National Plan for Prevention and Control of Forest Fires."
  • Led the team that wrote the first forest-fire control plan for the state of Kerala, India.

    Last Meeting:

    Chapter Secretary Mike Diggles FN-92 treated us to a multi-media presentation of his career as a field research geologist. Wearing his fluorescent orange vest and toting his compass, rock hammer, hand lens, and aerial-photo stereoscope, he transported us onto the dense forests in Alaska, the dry alluvial fill of the Great Valley, and the granite crags of the Sierra Nevada. His beautiful slides showed the spectacular scenery that is his workplace, and his images of the geologic maps and reports he produces reminded us of the crucial work done by the U.S. Geologic Survey. Always one of the foremost scientific organization in the United States, the USGS has continued a tradition of the highest level of scholarship and relevance to the challenges of living in a land that may look benign, but is in reality an active, changing, and sometimes threatening environment.

    We were pleased to welcome several guests, including Rhonda Friend, guest of Bob Hollis FN-92. Mike Diggles' guests were his son, Chris Fobes, his girlfriend, Martha Gilmore, and his friends Joe Tysl and Geta Carlson.

    Impressions of the ECAD in New York were presented by several members who attended. Chairman Bob Schmieder FN-86 gave news of the ECAD and the efforts to establish an office in the Presidio, and also a proposal to host an ECAD-like event in San Francisco.

    ECAD Report

    The Explorers Club Annual Dinner was a fun and rewarding time. The events included the Chapter Workshop on Friday, the Chapter Chairmen's dinner Friday evening, the (new) New Member's Reception on Saturday morning, the ECAD Saturday night, the business meeting Sunday morning, and the film festival/lectures Sunday afternoon.

    Our Chapter was very well represented: Members (plus significant others) attending included Ron Reuther FN-74, John Roscoe FN-54f, Gordon Fountain FN-76, Dave Mullen FN-79, Eve Iversen FN-86, Dan Liebowitz MN-66, Mort Beebe FN-78, Krist Jake MN-78, Alan Hutchison MN-67, Joe Rychetnik E-67, Sylvia Earle FN-81, Don Johanson, FN-76 and Bob Schmieder FN-86.

    A new event this year was the (First) Annual New Members Reception, invented by and hosted by the Northern California Chapter. This event provides a welcome for persons arriving for the first time, and a chance to meet with the older members. It was such a success that we will do it every year in the future.

    Another positive development was greater accessibility to the library. The library provides service to members, even though they are not able to go there in person. You are invited to write, call, or e-mail the librarian (Janet Baldwin) with a request for help on any aspect of exploration. She will search her holdings and advise you what is available.

    Another development is the broadening of the Traveler's Program. The Club is supporting high-visibility trips, led by Club members, to remote and interesting locations worldwide. The program is a fund-raiser for the Youth Activities Fund. If you are interested in leading such a trip, you are invited to contact the Club president, John Loret, or another of the officers.
    - Chairman Bob Schmieder


    The Internet World Wide Web Home Page is apt to be off line soon if we do not get official approval to use the USGS server. Mike Diggles, FN-92 (AKA Chapter Webmaster) is busy trying to pave the way for another group, the Peninsula Geological Society, to have their Home Page housed at USGS and if that works out, he will follow with an approval request for the Chapter. Fear not, there is a safety net. Mike emailed Harvey Chinn at the Information Center for the Environment about possible interactions between that group and our Chapter. The Center is a cooperative effort of environmental scientists at the University of California, Davis and collaborators at over thirty private, state, federal, and international organizations interested in environmental protection. During our "conversations," Harvey offered to house the Chapter Home Page on his machine if the location at USGS becomes unavailable. His Home Page is quite wonderful. Browse it at

    There are now "hot links" in the Chapter Home Page to the Home Pages of some of the organizations in which Chapter members are active. You can now see Mountain Travel * Sobek (Richard Bangs, MN-81) and Earthwatch (Nonna Cheatham, MN-80). Please email Mike Diggles with your URL if you'd like your group added to this list.

    News of Members:

    Congratulations to Dan Cheatham FN-89 who received a plaque of recognition from the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) for his "pioneering work which became the basis for A Manual of California Vegetation." This honor stems from work Dan did in the mid 1970s to develop an annotated checklist of the State's habitat types, as typified by their vegetation. The list, reiterated and improved on by subsequent authors, has served as a guide for several public and private agencies engaged in the protection and management of California's natural heritage. The CNPS took the lead in preparing the newest iteration which is now in press.
    We received this from prospective member Greg Miller, March 10, 1995:

    Sorry I will miss your presentation on 3/31, but I will be on my way to Kathmandu that day, later to cross into Tibet, to climb Everest this pre-monsoon season. Please keep me on the mailing list and in mind for future Explorers Club events this summer when I return.

    If anyone feels spirited to write to me at Everest Basecamp, by "snail mail," the address is below. Put your address on the postcard and I will write back, from Basecamp. Mail sent between the dates of 3/25 to 5/10 should reach me. Getting mail will likely be one of my few pleasures [yeah, right! -ed.], so thanks.

  • Greg Miller, expedition member
  • 1995 German-American North Col Everest Expedition
  • c/o Asian Trekking
  • Attn.: Ang Tshering Sherpa
  • Bhagwan Bahal, Thamel
  • Kathmandu
  • Nepal
  • Fax: 011-9771-411878

    Greg also recently accepted an offer to join a SF-based company called Kenetech Corporation when he returns from the hills. He will go in as General Counsel for their energy subsidiary, Kenetech Energy Systems, Inc. (KES), and as associate general counsel for the parent corp. This company manufactures and operates windmill power plants—like the ones you see on Altamont Pass. Greg begins August 1, and we wish him well.
    We received this from Bryan Jonson FN-88, March 11, 1995

    I have been out of the jungle for some time and I will be returning shortly to Venezuela - hope to make a meeting while I'm in town, but not sure due to supply hunting, etc. - I am getting the newsletter forwarded and am impressed - everybody keep up the great work. I miss the group. I am taking a portable computer with dish back - hope to make contact from the bush. I thought I would pass the enclosed post along to the club members - maybe we can help:

    "The Maya Research Program, based in Northwestern Belize, is in need of a conservator with experience with stuccoe reliefs to come to Belize this summer to make casts of a temple fresco. If you are interested please contact Dr. T. Guderjan at guderjan @ aol. com"
    We received this from Herbert Sigmond, MD. FN-93 Executive Director, Adventure Medicine

    In December 1994, a group of physicians from the Northern California Chapter of The Explorers' Club organized, sponsored, and financed a medical project to Ecuador. These physicians are members of a group called Adventure Medicine, an organization comprising more than 150 professional who seek to participate in expeditions of exploration, medical research, and humanitarian relief projects. It's leadership is made of many Explorers Club members

    We accumulated medicines and supplies to treat 1,500 people and flew these supplies by small aircraft into the jungle along the lower Pastaza River in the Amazon Basin in November, 1994. Accompanied by guides and several Indian leaders, we traveled by motorized canoe up various tributaries, visiting as many communities as possible, setting up temporary medical clinics, as well as making a health-care-needs assessment for this several-thousand-square-mile area. The project was really the brainstorm of Michael Mouri FN-93. Our intention was to do our own project, one that we would develop from scratch. We would develop, sponsor, and finance the project ourselves. We wanted to deliver health care in a remote area where there was no care available. We targeted Ecuador pretty much by throwing a dart at the map. Essentially we wanted to go to the Amazon Basin.

    A great many Explorers helped on this project, many of whom had worked on projects in Ecuador. Don Heyneman FN-78 is our chapter's expert parasitologist and has traveled to more disease-ridden third-world countries than anybody I know. Always the optimist, always encouraging, his advice is always practical. Edward Ross FN-79) has an ongoing project on the Napo River in Ecuador where he conducts natural history and photographic expeditions. He was very helpful in early phases when we attempted to identify the best project from the numerous possibilities. Oscar Lopp MN-92, through his organization, Mountain Medicine Institute, was in part responsible for our training for he has been training physicians, paramedics, and anyone who will listen in the art of wilderness and tropical medicine. Milton Matter MN-94 lived for many years in Ecuador and had spent time in the Lower Pastaza River area. He warned us about the snakes and he was right. We had two poisonous snakes in camp. Last but not least, Ron Reuther FN-79 helped us network within The Explorers Club making contact with numerous individuals who had information on some piece of the puzzle.

    The Achuar are a distinct Indian subculture numbering 4,500 people living in proximity to a disputed part of Ecuador and Peru. Few of them speak any Spanish. The Achuar leaders wanted to develop a health-care system that would not be in conflict with the their own healing practices. We agreed to do this assessment and help the Achuar leaders develop a sustainable health-care plan.

    We felt that bringing people with varied expertise would help us to develop a more realistic program for the Achuar people. Our actual team eventually numbered nine people consisting of Achuar Indian leaders, guides, Evaleen Jones M.D., Director of Cinter Andes, U.S.A. who had experience in fund raising; Dr. Edgar Rodas, former Dean of the School of Medicine, University of Cuenca; Elliot Taikeff, native rights attorney and advocate, Dr. Michael Mouri and myself.

    Dr. Mouri and I went into the jungle two weeks before the rest of the group arrived. We got to acclimate to the very humid weather and the insects. We visited a number a smaller villages reached by long treks through the jungle with backpacks full of medicine, fording waist-deep rivers and crossing suspension bridges. We treated machete injuries, malaria, dengue, typhoid, dental problems, parasites, respiratory infections, and malnutrition . We did many dental extractions by flashlight. There were no set clinic hours and patients appeared at the most inopportune times.

    We were impressed by the dedication of the missionaries whom we met. The people really have nothing in the material sense to which we are so accustomed. I remember one particularly bad machete injury that we operated on after dark by flashlight. The local priest brought out a warm bottle of coke that he had been saving.

    As a long-term solution for the Achuar was to have each village build or designate one hut as a clinic and have their own health-care promoter from within the community be trained to provide basic public health, medical, and minor surgical assistance. The Indians themselves were enthusiastic. Since returning, Dr. Rodas has approval from the School of Medicine at the University at Cuenca. He is now applying to CARE, International for funding. Adventure Medicine has written supporting letters. Adventure Medicine is now part of a team involving many groups. Once the health promoters are in place, we will help provide residents, family nurse practitioners, and physicians to visit the communities and upgrade their skills. We will help develop materials for student manuals and have been exploring the possible development of a regional medical communications system with Bob Schmieder FN-86.
    We got a change-of-address note from Michael Herz of BayKeeper. He's now at P.O. Box 274, Alna, Maine 04535. his email address is mherz @ mcimail .com and his phone number is (207) 586-5443.

    From the Chairman:

    I will be making a change in the monthly meeting schedules: Adding a business meeting 6:00-6:30 PM before the regular schedules. Attendance optional, but it will be designed to carry on our business.


    At the March meeting, I presented to the attendees a new proposal: The Explorers Club Golden Gate-Away. This would be a big bash party modeled after the ECAD, but held in October in San Francisco. The Northern California Chapter would be the central host, but we would combine with a variety of other organizations to plan, promote, and attend it.

    The event would be held entirely on a Saturday, in a major hotel in The City. During the day, we would have a variety of special events such as demonstrations, exhibits, lectures, and films. A luncheon with a famous expedition film-maker would be on the schedule. In the afternoon, an expedition fashion show, more demonstrations and lectures, and Kenya high tea. In the evening, a black-tie formal dinner with our own exotics, a variety of distinguished guests, presentations, famous explorers, and some surprises. At the end, a collection of really ugly animal friends would select the door prize. Cost would be $150 including all events. We will plan for about 300 attendees, and the profit will go to paying for the office in the Presidio.

    We want your ideas on this event. The first one would be October 12, 1996. We have a rough outline of plans, and invite you to contribute ideas before we circulate it. If you want to know more about what we're thinking, give me a call: (510) 934-3735. You could also fax any comments to that same number, or send them on e-mail:

    Upcoming Meetings.

  • The May meeting will be on the Peninsula and will begin with a reception at Dan (MN-66) and Rusty Liebowitz's house. We will then move to a restaurant that Dave Howell FN-86 said he would help select and have dinner and a speaker
  • The June meeting will be the traditional summer garden party at Erna Baldwin's house in Marin County.


    Ft. Mason Officers' Club, Building One, Bay and Franklin Streets, San Francisco

    Note that the Officer's Club is in the buildings on the hill above the Ft. Mason Center, not down on the waterfront by the wharves.

  • From North: S. on 101 to S.F. Take Marina Blvd. exit. Follow Marina Blvd. to Bay St.; turn left onto Bay. Go three blocks to Franklin; turn left into Ft. Mason.
  • From East: W. on 80 (Bay Bridge) to S.F. Take Fremont St. exit. Turn right onto Howard St. Continue to Embarcadero. Turn left onto Embarcadero. Continue to Bay St. Turn left onto Bay, continue to Franklin. Turn right into Ft. Mason.
  • From South: North on 101 to S.F. Exit 19th Ave. (Hwy. 1). Continue on 19th Ave. towards Golden Gate Bridge. At bridge approach, take downtown/Marina Blvd. exit. Follow Marina Blvd. to Bay St. Turn left onto Bay. Go three blocks to Franklin. Turn left on Franklin into Ft. Mason.
  • Once inside Ft. Mason, go to the first stop sign and turn right. The Officers Club is only a block further on the left side.

    Date created: 4/12/1995
    Last modified: 01/21/2002
    Created by: Mike Diggles, Secretary, Northern California Chapter of the Explorers Club
    The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter.

    c/o U.S. Geological Survey, MS-951, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. (650) 329-5404 email to

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