International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Whither the paradigm shift? Large wildland fires and the wildfire paradox offer opportunities for a new paradigm of ecological fire management

Timothy Ingalsbee
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology (FUSEE), 2852 Willamette number 125, Eugene, OR 97405, USA. Email: fire@efn.org

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(7) 557-561 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF17062
Submitted: 27 July 2016  Accepted: 11 May 2017   Published: 5 July 2017

Abstract

The growing frequency of large wildland fires has raised awareness of the ‘wildfire paradox’ and the ‘firefighting trap’ that are both rooted in the fire exclusion paradigm. However, a paradigm shift has been unfolding in the wildland fire community that seeks to restore fire ecology processes across broad landscapes. This would involve managing rather than aggressively suppressing large fires. Examples of recent fire science publications demonstrating ‘new paradigm’ thinking or critical questioning of ‘old paradigm’ assumptions are offered as evidence of this shift in thinking. However, integration of fire ecology science is lagging in fire-related policies and legislation, media representations of wildland fires, and conventional management responses to most wildland fires. Sociocultural, political and economic factors are functioning as barriers to change in fire management policies and practices. However, the growing risks, costs and impacts of large wildland fires will continue to highlight the crisis of the dominant fire exclusion paradigm. The general inability to prevent and effectively suppress large wildland fires may be the means to break through these institutional and societal barriers and propel efforts to shift philosophy and practice to a new paradigm of ecological fire management.


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