It is a Saturday in late April and we’re thinking of wildfires. Nearly half of the contiguous United States is in drought and fire season has started across the West, South and East. Earlier this spring a New Jersey brush fire smoked out Manhattan. On television, an episode of Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously” follows Arnold Schwarzenegger as he travels alongside Idaho hotshots. But the danger is not isolated to us in the US. Australia is just finishing an intense bushfire season, Indonesia and China face peat and forest fires, and Siberia is experiencing summer temperatures and fire activity. Africa is entering a dry season amplified by drought and in South America, in Valparaiso, Chile, a fast-racing fire destroyed 2500 homes, left 11,000 homeless, and killed 15 people . Global drought maps are splotched red and yellow, with drought impacts north, south, east and west.
This is the fire environment which frames another issue of Wildfire Magazine.
Yet this issue of Wildfire Magazine is not like the prior issue. For one, it’s four months late, a result of IAWF’s transition into the world of independent publishing. We publish this issue solely as an IAWF product, without the support and commitment offered by our prior and long-time publishing partner, Fire Chief magazine and Penton Media. We offer thanks for their long-time support and best wishes, but when Penton Media cancelled Fire Chief (and thus Wildfire), we got to work. Because our members, readers, advertisers and profession have a need for a magazine focusing on wildfires and bushfires — on current issues, science, best-practices, management, leadership, skills, and tools that help us do our job.
During the magazine’s hiatus we’ve been researching and planning our publishing options, and this issue is the first result. It’s our first Special Issue on a single topic, “Large Wildland Fires,” and our largest issue in recent memory. The topic for the Special Issue arose from the growing interest in large fires and mega-fires, and coincides with the upcoming Large Wildland Fires Conference, co-sponsored by IAWF and the Association of Fire Ecology (AFE).
But it’s important to say, the 52 pages of this issue is not the Large Wildland Fires Conference. The conference includes some 300 speakers, numerous training opportunities, and field trips centered around an epicenter of fire research and large fires in Missoula, Montana. Attend if you want to begin to fully understand this huge and diverse topic.
By now, you might be asking, if this issue is not this or that, then what is it? I’d offer that it’s a magazine that gathers experts and experienced voices, the images and insights that we’re talking about today. We’ve gathered scientists, photographers, fire chiefs, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, and fire managers from all spectrums and a range of time zones to help us understand what “large wildland fires” mean to us and to our communities, now and in the future. We continue to address the challenge of comprehending our huge loss at Yarnell Hill and we offer a selection of “What Next” ideas for Large-Fire management. Since all of us, wheather facing commuinty fuel buildups or landscape-scale risk, share a common question: what can we and should we do next?
— Ron Steffens, Chair, Wildfire Magazine Editorial Board