3 2019

Transitions. In fire briefings, we often warn of the changing risks as we move into or out of complexity, from one form of management or communication, or when we change roles or tactics, or when the fire itself is more likely move between routine and extreme, Our shorthand for this is a cautionary word — “transitions.” During transitions we’re more likely to oversimplify the jumble. We throw more people, tools and tactics against the fire and the risk of bad results multiplies.

The lessons learned from transitions are on our mind — 25 years ago, on July 6 1994, 14 firefighters died when the South Canyon Fire blew up on Storm King Mountain in western Colorado. The fire transitioned and strategy and leadership and lives succumbed to physics. There will be a memorial on the mountain, and we remember those who were lost and who survived – on South Canyon, Thirty Mile, Dude, Yarnell, and all the other fire tragedies – in part by renewing our commitment to manage fire for firefighter and public safety.


Transition risks have parallels beyond fire management. Today, some seek to face our changing global risks by falling into the transition error of tunnel vision — seeking shelter in nationalism or climate-crisis denialism. We may be leery of social and political influences yet these too are in our risk-pool as we build fire-service and fire-science organizations that may thrive amid transitions.

Which may explain an evolving focus in Wildfire on organizational resilience. For instance, the current issue-dialogue paper frames questions and shares responses about our changing approaches to fire suppression, plus we share your responses to IAWF’s first issue-paper dialogue on extreme fire — all of which are shaped by our search for resilience amid climate and political transitions. Similarly, Eric Kennedy seeks new paths forward for fire science, and our Fire Globe series continues as an international team explores what the melding of science-and-practice looks like in Turkey.

And we see what is gained when we successfully transition into increased complexity in the stories here (and in future issues) inspired by the recent Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference, simultaneously hosted in three counties. In a few intense days (after so many spent planning), our profession came together across the globe, adapting to a world in flux. Twenty-five years after the lives lost on Storm King, our staunchest memorial may be represented, in part, in a conference where we time-shared our recognition that fire is truly a global issue. Our global issue, and our transitions will be safer if we meet, even virtually, and build our team’s resilience, regardless of our particular role or physical address. – RS