Joseph Pred, Burning Man’s Emergency Services Operations Chief moves on

Joseph Pred
Joseph Pred

Joseph Pred, who founded the Emergency Services Department and served as its Operations Chief, has announced he is moving on after 18 event years to focus on his consulting work. Joseph helped develop the Black Rock Rangers prior to the 1996 event and it was his vision that grew the event’s Emergency Services Department to a world class organization.

From his early involvement as a volunteer medic with the Black Rock Rangers, he spun off the Emergency Services Department in 2001 as the event grew and organizers recognized a need for a dedicated focus on fire and medical support for Black Rock City. He joined the organization full time in 2003.

“Philosophically, what makes ESD different from any other event in the world is the municipal nature of what we’re doing,” Joseph said. “In the early days I don’t think we realized how groundbreaking it was. We weren’t following any blueprint.”

In the 13 years since ESD was created it has grown to an organization with more than 100 managers and 1,000 staff involved in oversight and strategic planning year round overseeing advanced and basic life support, fire, dispatch, communications infrastructure and mental health services for a temporary city of 68,000.

“Joseph’s contributions have been foundational,” said Burning Man co-founder Harley K. DuBois. “He helped create a platform of mutual support and cooperation and, as the event’s population and complexity grew, he guided the growth of ESD. As a founding member of the Playa Safety Council, he helped keep that spirit of collaboration and information sharing at the forefront of how we work.”

Joseph Pred on Burn night 2006
Joseph Pred on Burn night 2006

Burning Man’s Emergency Services Department was lauded in 2010 by Hillard Heintze, a security management firm specializing in helping organizations establish best-in-class security strategies and investigations.

“The Emergency Services Department at Burning Man has assembled an excellent team of emergency service professionals,” said Hillard Heintze CEO Arnette Heintze in their analysis Black Rock City’s operations. “In fact, it has established a best-in-class structure for a mass gathering event that rivals National Special Security Events such as Super Bowls, Presidential Conventions and FIFA World Cups.”

“Joseph has been integral to the growth and professionalism of our health and safety infrastructure and the organization as a whole,” said Marian Goodell, Burning Man Director of Business and Communications. “Though he’s leaving his employment with Black Rock City LLC, we are already exploring options to work with him in a new capacity with the growth of activities by Burning Man Project and the regionals network.”

Joseph being interviewed on German TV, 2012
Joseph Pred being interviewed on German TV, 2012

“Burning Man is a very risk-tolerant environment,” Joseph said. “This isn’t Disneyland. We want people to have an experience. What we do culturally is risk curation. We look at what risk boundaries are tolerable and create an experience that keeps participants in mind.”

In 2000, Joseph founded Mutual Aid Response Services (MARS) Inc. to provide comprehensive emergency operations, medical, communication, fire and consulting services to community groups and events looking for services similar to those offered at the Burning Man event.

“Burning Man founders were very supportive when we launched MARS,” Joseph said. “We operated initially with support from Burning Man headquarters and many of our early clients came as a result of their experience on the playa.”

MARS’s client list includes a variety of community events such as Maker Faire, Opulent Temple and the SF Love Parade.

In addition to his work with Burning Man and MARS, Joseph served two terms as the public health representative to the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, focusing on arts and cultural issues, and working with city officials and law enforcement on permitting for late night venues in the City.

Joseph also found time to write his first book, “Show Me How to Survive (Outdoor Life): The Handbook for the Modern Hero”, published in 2011 by the Outdoor Life editors at Simon & Schuster.

The Emergency Services Department heads will report to Charlie Dolman, Event Operations Director, until further notice.

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

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23 Comments on “Joseph Pred, Burning Man’s Emergency Services Operations Chief moves on

  • Bexx says:

    Thank you for all your hard work Joseph!!!! Camp_____ BALLS! Will still be there for you :)

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  • Chukka says:

    I think Bounce would have been pleased, thrilled, even proud. I know that ESD gave him something important and that he loved the event.
    Best of luck in your new endeavors.

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  • David Ferrera says:

    Joseph, it is a complete honor to know you and to have experienced your profound commitment. THANK YOU JPRED! You rock and roll and smolder and burn with such grace and fun…

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  • GumbyRoffo says:

    Thank you Joseph, We haven’t met but I appreciate your crew keeping the participants safe when required.

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  • The King of Burning Man says:

    Whoa, well a very huge thank you my friend. Is your replacement going to recognize my reign?! You will be dearly missed…unless of course you’ll still be attending as a….participant in which case, I will see you in the thunderdome!

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  • John Nettle says:

    I’m happy to be able to say it was a pleasure working with you. I’m glad I had the chance. Good luck in your future adventures, Joe:) And let me know when you’re back in Austin.

    John “Horse” Nettle

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  • Rabbi says:

    Your service has been inspirational, Joseph, best of luck in your future endeavors!

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  • Lothos says:

    Joseph(aka Baker 18/Battalion 1) it has been my honor and privelege to have worked with you since 2000.Best of luck in your future endevours.

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  • Fearless says:

    Wishing you the best Joseph. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.

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  • Megan Miller says:

    I have truly enjoyed working with you, Joseph. Your dedication and professionalism are an inspiration – thank you for all you’ve done and will continue to do for the event and the community!

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  • Retro says:

    Thanks for all the just awesome support these many years. It’s been great working with you, including sharing an office back on Market Street. Best wishes to you sir, in your next phase of life!

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  • Pete Lee says:


    Much love and respect for everything you’ve done with emergency ops over the years. To your continued success and happiness…


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  • Big Bear says:

    It will not be the same without you. Thanks for all you have taught me over the years, and for all we learned while eating animal crackers (an inside joke folks) together. The Burning Man Project would not be where it is today without your many contributions, both those visible and lasting and those crafted behind the front scenery. Your legacy is real.

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  • Dr.Baron von Realz Esq. says:

    Thank you Joseph,

    you have given us a secure and safe place to play, explore and be ourselves.

    stay dusty

    “compliancy is safe, change is not”
    – Dr.Baron von Realz Esq.

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  • Lucky says:

    Yeah, thanks Joseph, see yah out there!

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  • Dear Joseph,
    Ten tips of my Playa hat to you for a culture well-established and well-honored!

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  • $teven Ra$pa says:

    Thank you for working with me over the years in the service of our community. Your encouragement to speak publicly on behalf of our community has made me a better advocate for artists; and your support on safety plans for official regional events around the world has been invaluable. I know we will continue working together in some way and I am fortunate to have you as a friend in this world.

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  • Joseph McCarthy says:

    Burning Man without Joseph Pred will be a big improvement. He always seemed to be the heavy behind inscrutable and painful policy changes — like “all people who work in this group suddenly have to become Rangers or be kicked out”, a change that NOBODY at BM would take responsibility for promulgating, yet everyone insisted had to be followed. I cannot mention the name of the group because BM policy is that it is The Group That Shall Never Be Named (I’m not kidding). Joseph hit the roof when a volunteer who was concerned about personal liability for volunteer responders (such as Rangers) asked questions about this to their friend, Burning Man’s volunteer lawyer. Joseph claimed that they were revealing classified/secret/proprietary/whatever Ranger information. Get a clue, Joe, the Rangers are not the secret police and you are not their commissar. Burning Man can’t classify anything, and if you tell a volunteer something, in a free society, they are free to discuss it with other volunteers or anybody else they please. His on-playa emergency “mental health” crew was widely considered a joke that would mess up any situation you called them into. Then there’s the secretive “Ranger Council” that “runs” the rangers, making policies and disciplining stragglers, but how are “Ranger Council” members selected? Not by the other Rangers, not by any public process, it’s a mystery like the Chinese Central Committee. BM’s official policy is to be run “bottom up”, having good ideas percolate up from the people doing the work, but all around Joseph, policies were “top down”, with orders coming from him and if you didn’t like it you could shove off. If you find a BM policy that closes down openness and respect among participants and volunteers, Joseph’s influence is probably not far away.

    How much would you bet that the BM Blog’s “moderation for the benefit of all readers” will never let the public see this message? It’s much more self-serving for BM to have lots of ass-kissing messages about how cool Joe is and how we’ll all miss him. I expect him to turn up as a highly compensated “consultant” to the new “charitable nonprofit” Burning Man Project.

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  • Katrina says:

    Never knew Joe, but I don’t think of how many people are involved all year long with Burning Man that make things work smoothly. As of tell all comments….free speech but who are we to judge and assume. Thank goodness for Joes commitment and evolution for ESD. Hopefully, he will become a consultant if that is ever in the works and offered it. I for one applaud anyone that puts that many years in and knows when its time to move on. Thank you Joe…..grow, Joe, grow

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  • Zaius says:

    wow. just wow. …. it seems that there are too many key players moving on. …. a big (imho) time of transition for this annual temporary city / big art fest. I’d be kinda concerned as to who are going to fill all these shoes. Possibly maybe that guy Charlie who now runs the whole event can import some quality folks from other events he’s worked around the world? I’m not sure that those “below” the ones stepping down want anything to do with the open positions. Things kinda got extra “weird” this year from a worker / behind the scenes perspective. With that said, I look forward to what the future holds. It may be like Hunter Thompson once said… “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”. Pred did alright. He’s gonna be missed. Rock on, dude.

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  • AsOfTime says:

    Regime change and then ultimate decline. No one cares about this ” big business ” anymore. It grew too big now it devours itself in its own greed.

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  • Trailer says:

    -B1 going off comm.

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