Most readers of Wildfire Magazine know what a wildfire (or a bushfire) is. Yet in this issue of Wildfire, we preview the wide range of topics to be explored at the upcoming conference, “Managing Fire, Understanding Ourselves: Human Dimensions in Safety and Wildland Fire.” And one key aspect of our humanity is how we each picture the world through unique frames.
An infrequent reader of Wildfire, someone who knows fire mostly through wood stoves, campfires, fireworks and videos of extreme fire behavior, might witness smoke and flames and sense an inhumane and unforgiving threat, a smoke plume to flee. Whereas we might see a reason to turn the truck around and go to work. Or it may be a fire we planned, prepped and ignited — to build resilience into the landscape and reduce risks to lives and communities from those extreme fires that make the news.
There are as many ways to know fire as there are individuals who seek to know it, and these days far more community members and political leaders seek to understand this primal force. Even those who’ve come to know fire well can discover what shouldn’t be a surprise but which, at times, can be. So we call ourselves “Students of Fire” and look for the lessons and the news in each new ignition, in each fuel-reduction burn, and in each fire season where fuels grow thicker and closer to homes.
Some of the fire news these days seems anchored on the west coasts of continents — fire evacuations from the Northcliffe fires in Western Australia, on the western Cape of South Africa and Valparaiso, Chile, and the continuing impacts of long-term drought from California through Oregon and Washington in the United States, where last summer’s fire intensity seems likely to recur as the drought intensifies.
But there is news, also, in the evolution of how we view fire. Witness the columns and articles in this issue (such a small sampling of the upcoming conference), which features community engagement from Tasmania, to a cooperative of fire scientists and artists in Arizona, to a study of how radio transmissions set the stage for fireline communications. And we close the issue with an After Action column from Australia, asking “To burn or not to burn?”
Our firefighter safety topics include profiles of practitioners who’ve been honored for best practices, a cautionary perspective on what we’ve improved (and failed to resolve) in our S-course/Taskbook training era, to commentary on EMS and fireline leadership, to a preview of a Catalonian documentary that asks us to rethink our awareness of fire and safety — in the aftermath of the Horta de Sant Joan entrapment in 2009, where five firefighters died and one was severely injured.
One bit of solution-focused fire news this month: the GovTrack.us update on H.R. 167, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, offers this prognosis for the bill:
- 82% chance of getting past committee.
- 54% chance of being enacted.
These are odds worth getting behind — and the biggest news may be the bipartisan mix of sponsors: 35 Republicans and 26 Democrats. It is human to debate and discuss as we seek solutions and consensus. But we are in an era where some key claims and solutions should become commonplace — one being that we should work together to manage fire. Fires ignore boundaries, so perhaps fire legislation may likewise remind us how to cross over boundaries to find the solutions we need.