Jack F. Wilson

Jack F. Wilson

Jack F. Wilson died at the age of 101, just six weeks short of his 102nd birthday, on February 15, 2021. A former B-24 pilot in World War II, and subsequently Director of the National Interagency Fire Center, Mr. Wilson coordinated wildfire fighting efforts for the entire United States.

John Fredrick Wilson (Jack) was born on April 2, 1919 in Salt Lake City, Utah to Miriam Rebecca James Wilson and John Lorimer Wilson. Jack spent his school years at the family home in Park City, but his summers were spent on the family cattle ranch in Skull Valley.

Jack enrolled at BYU in 1937. As his studies progressed, Jack joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Jack enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he was assigned to pilot the four-engine B-24 bomber. Jack quickly became a top B-24 pilot, and was tasked to lead a ten-man crew to fly a stripped-down B-24, with the bomb bays replaced by fuel bladders, on 12-14 hour long sorties to track the Japanese fleet.

After the war he met Gwendolyn Gwynn at BYU. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on November 20, 1947. Jack then returned to BYU to continue his master's degree in agronomy.

After graduation, Jack was appointed as a manager in the Rawlins, Wyoming BLM office followed by his appointment as BLM Area Manager in Pinedale, Wyoming. Subsequently he became BLM District Manager in Burley, Idaho. He then headed the BLM District office in Riverside, California where he became a strong advocate for the preservation of desert lands, and helped to complete the California Desert Plan.

Jack was appointed Director of the Interagency Fire Center in Boise where he led teams of pilots, dispatchers, fire fighters, and weather forecasters from all federal agencies to coordinate wildfire fighting throughout the United States. As a result of his vision, he led the team that pioneered the Initial Incident Command System, now used in the United States and throughout the world to coordinate responses to natural disasters and national security threats.

He became an international legend in the wild land firefighting community. In 1995 the U.S. government honored him by dedicating the Jack F. Wilson Headquarters of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

He was preceded in death by his wife Gwen and his son Johnny, and is survived by his children Wendy Woods (Jackson), Elaine Knippers (John), Barbara Cox (Paul), Laurel Thomas (Gary), and Jim Wilson (Sharon), 16 grandchildren, and 23 great grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Relyea Funeral Chapel, Boise, ID with a viewing from 6:00 - 8:00 PM on Friday, February 26, and a virtual service being conducted on Saturday February 27 at 10:00 AM. Details are available at relyeafuneralchapel.com. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Public Lands Foundation (publicland.org) or the Wildland Fire Fighters Foundation (wffoundation.org).