IN THE FIRST WEEK OF 2020, parts of Australia received a light rain. A land in a three-year drought is still in drought and the fires are returning but we could feel, half a world away, that our colleagues welcomed a short respite from their intense fire season.
A thirsty land generally only regrets a rain that turns to flood — yet these rains were too little, too late for those who’ve lost colleagues and family, for those breathing the smoke, for the houses and businesses burnt, for the wildlife and livestock and pets killed or injured, and for the habitat damaged and wide frand of other natural resources lost. And a fair lot of the burden of this loss is owned by our species — the patterns of drought and normal burning are far off-kilter due to human-caused climate change. This is what the International Association of Wildland Fire said in a globally focused statement issued in 2019 (https://www.iawfonline.org/article/climate-change-week-un/). This is what we learn from our scientist-colleagues. These are the fires and fuels our fire-manager-colleagues are tasked to control. We manage fire for good yet it is not enough to conduct prescribed burns and cultural fires; as crucial as these acts are, a fire can turn bad, quickly, in part due to a changing climate, the result of centuries of our carbon pollution. It’s no longer enough to staff the firelines. It’s our atmosphere, our policies, our economies and strategic leadership that now need the attention of fire professionals and community and world leaders.
IF THESE AND OTHER FIRE PLUMES mark the early days of the Pyrocene — the human-fire era as coined by Stephen Pyne — then it’s only fitting that our coverage in the first Wildfire issue of 2020 circles around how we manage complexity and risk. Words and images show us the way to manage fires amid many jurisdictions and to manage landscape-scale fires using pre-planned holding lines. We look at the challenges facing us all, the Pyrocene manifested in Australia and California. And an emergency room doctor and former firefighter asks, how can we make our work safer by focusing on basic fireline life support? Yet these are not all the stories — not of this fire year, nor of managing fire amid complexity — and we believe that our shared stories are essential if we’re to move safely and effectively into the Pyrocene. This year, Wildfire transitions to a quarterly print publication and a more frequent online publication cycle, so we can share our stories more quickly (online) and in more depth (in print and online).
We ask you to visit our Author’s page at https://www.iawfonline.org/wildfire-author-guidelines/ to share your story ideas, or send an email to [email protected]. We look forward to your images, stories and ideas that will help us master these challenging days. – RS
CLARIFICATION: Due to editing processes, the article in Issue 28.5, “What happens when women thrive — a life and career in fire,” does not provide the exact wording of the panelists. To hear and read their exact words visit the video/transcription links online at https://www.iawfonline.org/article/what-happens-when-women-thrive-a-life-and-a-career-in-fire/.