THE WILDFIRE PROFESSION, as with so many public-service professions, is managed from within and outside our profession. It’s not breaking news to note that some of those outside managers may not share our priorities, values, or even our facts. At times it seems as if we (those working within the profession) are heading to resolve our issues while those outside of the profession are mis-leading every which way but where we our experiences and our best science tell us we’re heading.
Witness the contents of this issue — where our contributors share the ideas and images that have been heat-tested by fireline professoinals and fire scientists. Yet outside these pages and our profession, the focus on managing fires looks more like a fun-house mirror than reality-based. At least at the national levels in the US, long-term funding for major fire organizations and fire science remains unclear or off-target, and a recent report in PLOS (profiled in Wildfire Today) warns that the result of climate change and other landscape-level changes “Ultimately … means that the large fire seasons of recent years, such as the one just ending, are likely to occur more frequently, affecting ecosystems, communities and public safety,” [co-author Don] Falk said. “These will be billion-dollar fire years. We’re just not ready for fire impacts of this kind, including post-fire effects from flooding after fire.”
ARE WE READY? It may benefit us all to host a few of the out-of-our-profession leaders for a few fireline hikes this summer, as it seems we learn and lead best with fire and field boots, and sharing the field-tested work of scientists and managers who engage the challenges at hand — the winds that feed fires and not simply the winds of politics.
So we offer the first issue of the 27th “fire season” of Wildfire Magazine with a focus on the most recent and challenging flames of the past fire season — the fires (and lost lives, houses, and the resulting floods) of the California fires in the fall and early winter of 2017. As the article notes, “The total cost of the 2017 fires in California alone is projected to exceed $180 billion.“ Can we better manage these risks and costs? That’s what our contributors suggest — there are leadership and management solutions to these challenges. And as writer Linnea Edmeier reflects, the impact from not-managing these risks is tragic — as her memorial for Cory Iverson, “Walk a mile in my fire boots,” reminds us.
Wildfire Magazine, as a venue for the profession, offers as many versions of leadership as we can fit. Beyond California, we also offer previews for solutions that have worked in locally and globally — in the form of Mike DeGrosky’s reflection on how to lead toward a unified Cohesive Strategy by leading first within your own organization. Plus insights on the upcoming Cohesive Strategy conference and a report on a science workshop to integrate the lessons of “paleofire” for today’s ecosystem managers. And we begin the issue with our new IAWF leader’s take on “President’s Desk,” with Alen Slijepcevic introducing his goal “to unite and progress, amid challenges.”
As we wonder what’s next, it’s worth noting that our coverage of Mike Eliason’s tweets on the #ThomasFire shows the application of a 10-year-old tool: the use of #hashtags to rapidly focus online messages was an innovation triggered during the San Diego fires in Fall 2007. Today these online tools seem second nature. So we’d do well to apply the lessons learned from this tragic fire season, and imagine and work toward our profession a few years from now — a world of drones, real-time firefighter location, and effective funding for the work we’re called to do.