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The Northwest Fire Science Consortium works to accelerate the awareness, understanding, and adoption of wildland fire science. We connect managers, practitioners, scientists, and local communities and collaboratives working on fire issues on forest and range lands in Washington and Oregon.

Learn more about NWFSC...

JFSP Regions


NWFSC is one of
fifteen regional exchanges
sponsored by the Joint Fire Science Program.

Paul Hessburg

 Paul Hessburg at TEDxBend

 Living (Dangerously) in an Era of Megafires

Hot Topics

Washington Forest Collaboratives Summit

Please join us October 24-25 for our fourth annual Washington Forest Collaboratives Network in Ellensburg, Washington. The summit is an opportunity to network, share success stories, and discuss lessons learned. The meeting will bring together forest collaborative members, agency partners, state and federal officials, policy makers, and leading scientists and practitioners. .

When: October 24-25, 2017

Where: Ellensburg, Washington

Admission: Free

Agenda: Coming soon


For more information, contact Andrew Spaeth, Forest Program Director, at aspaeth@sustainablenorthwest.org

Fall 2017 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange

Please find attached the Fall 2017 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) announcement with details about the online application process, training requirements, and much more. We are excited to carry on this grassroots effort to bring good fire back to the Western Klamath Mountains through creating co-ownership of fire on our landscape.

Dates are currently set for October 2-15, 2016, with incident management staff showing up on September 30. Applications are due August 15th.

This year we will be based in Orleans, CA, with a large spike camp in Happy Camp and some burning down the Klamath River corridor to Weitchpec and on the Salmon River.

In addition to providing training opportunities for firefighters and firelighters, we also have planning and support roles in our Type III Incident Management Team that do not require fireline qualifications. We are also still looking for a Logistics Section Chief and Safety Officer. 


The influence of incident management teams on the deployment of wildfire suppression resources

Authored by M. Hand; Published 2017

Despite large commitments of personnel and equipment to wildfire suppression, relatively little is known about the factors that affect how many resources are ordered and assigned to wildfire incidents and the variation in resources across incident management teams (IMTs). Using detailed data on suppression resource assignments for IMTs managing the highest complexity wildfire incidents (Type 1 and Type 2), this paper examines daily suppression resource use and estimates the variation in resource use between IMTs. Results suggest that after controlling for fire and landscape characteristics, and for higher average resource use on fires in California, differences between IMTs account for ~14% of variation in resource use. Of the 89 IMTs that managed fires from 2007 to 2011, 17 teams exhibited daily resource capacity that was significantly higher than resource use for the median team.

Health benefits and costs of filtration interventions that reduce indoor exposure to PM2.5 during wildfires

Authored by W.J. Fisk; W.R. Chan; Published 2017

Increases in hospital admissions and deaths are associated with increases in outdoor air particles during wildfires. This analysis estimates the health benefits expected if interventions had improved particle filtration in homes in Southern California during a 10-day period of wildfire smoke exposure. Economic benefits and intervention costs are also estimated. The six interventions implemented in all affected houses are projected to prevent 11% to 63% of the hospital admissions and 7% to 39% of the deaths attributable to wildfire particles. The fraction of the population with an admission attributable to wildfire smoke is small, thus, the costs of interventions in all homes far exceeds the economic benefits of reduced hospital admissions. However, the estimated economic value of the prevented deaths exceed or far exceed intervention costs for interventions that do not use portable air cleaners. For the interventions with portable air cleaner use, mortality-related economic benefits exceed intervention costs as long as the cost of the air cleaners, which have a multi-year life, are not attributed to the short wildfire period. Cost effectiveness is improved by intervening only in the homes of the elderly who experience most of the health effects of particles from wildfires.

Who among the elderly is most vulnerable to exposure and health risks of PM2.5 from wildfire smoke?

Authored by J.C. Liu; Published 2017

Wildfires burn over 7 million US acres annually, according to the US Forest Service. Little is known regarding which subpopulations are more vulnerable to health risks from wildfire smoke, including fine particles. We estimated exposure to fine particles specifically from wildfires and associations between wildfire-specific fine particles and respiratory hospital admissions for subpopulations > 65 years in the Western US (2004-2009). Higher fractions of Blacks and people in urban counties and in California are exposed to > 1 smoke wave (high-pollution episodes from wildfire smoke) compared to other populations. Risk of respiratory admissions on smoke-wave days compared to non-smoke-wave days increased 10.4% (95% confidence interval: 1.9%, 19.6%) for females and 21.7% (95% confidence interval: 0.4%, 47.3%) for Blacks. Findings suggest that increased risk of respiratory admissions from wildfire smoke was significantly higher for females than males (10.4% versus 3.7%) and Blacks than Whites (21.7% versus 6.9%), and, although associations were not statistically different, lower-education counties than higher-educated counties (12.7% versus 6.1%). Our study raised important environmental justice issues that can inform public health programs and wildfire management. As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of wildfires, evidence on vulnerable subpopulations can inform disaster preparedness and understanding of climate change consequences.

Crook County Cohesive Strategy in Action

Workshop Event from Central OR Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy Initiative

Save the date!

Special Report: Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative

Authored by W.Governors' Association; Published 2017
Western Governors on June 27, 2017 released the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative Special Report, highlighting mechanisms to bring states, federal land managers, private landowners and other stakeholders together to discuss issues and opportunities in forest and rangeland management.
In the report, experts and stakeholders from throughout the West share insights on land management practices and identify improvements that will enable western states to develop healthy, resilient landscapes and communities.
The goals of the initiative are to:
  • Examine existing forest and rangeland management authorities and programs to determine their strengths and weaknesses;
  • Perform a detailed investigation of the role of collaboratives in landscape restoration;
  • Create a mechanism for states and land managers to share best practices, case studies and policy options for forest and rangeland management; and
  • Recommend improved forest and rangeland management authorities and encourage more effective collaboration.

The report outlines the launch year of the initiative and includes both administrative and legislative recommendations. The priorities under each recommendation section are in direct alignment with the Cohesive Strategy.

Towards improving wildland firefighter situational awareness through daily fire behaviour risk assessments in the US Northern Rockies and Northern Great Basin

Authored by W.M. Jolly; Published 2017

Wildland firefighters must assess potential fire behaviour in order to develop appropriate strategies and tactics that will safely meet objectives. Fire danger indices integrate surface weather conditions to quantify potential variations in fire spread rates and intensities and therefore should closely relate to observed fire behaviour. These indices could better inform fire management decisions if they were linked directly to observed fire behaviour. Here, we present a simple framework for relating fire danger indices to observed categorical wildland fire behaviour. Ordinal logistic regressions are used to model the probabilities of five distinct fire behaviour categories that are then combined with a safety-based weight function to calculate a Fire Behaviour Risk rating that can plotted over time and spatially mapped. We demonstrate its development and use across three adjacent US National Forests. Finally, we compare predicted fire behaviour risk ratings with observed variations in satellite-measured fire radiative power and we link these models with spatial fire danger maps to demonstrate the utility of this approach for landscape-scale fire behaviour risk assessment. This approach transforms fire weather conditions into simple and actionable fire behaviour risk metrics that wildland firefighters can use to support decisions that meet required objectives and keep people safe.

Towards enhanced risk management: planning, decision making and monitoring of US wildfire response

Authored by C.J. Dunn; Published 2017

Wildfire’s economic, ecological and social impacts are on the rise, fostering the realisation that business-as-usual fire management in the United States is not sustainable. Current response strategies may be inefficient and contributing to unnecessary responder exposure to hazardous conditions, but significant knowledge gaps constrain clear and comprehensive descriptions of how changes in response strategies and tactics may improve outcomes. As such, we convened a special session at an international wildfire conference to synthesise ongoing research focused on obtaining a better understanding of wildfire response decisions and actions. This special issue provides a collection of research that builds on those discussions. Four papers focus on strategic planning and decision making, three papers on use and effectiveness of suppression resources and two papers on allocation and movement of suppression resources. Here we summarise some of the key findings from these papers in the context of risk-informed decision making. This collection illustrates the value of a risk management framework for improving wildfire response safety and effectiveness, for enhancing fire management decision making and for ushering in a new fire management paradigm.

A Review of Pathways for Building Fire Spread in the Wildland Urban Interface Part II: Response of Components and Systems and Mitigation Strategies in the United States

Authored by R.S.P. Hakes; Published 2017

Structure loss in wildland fires has significantly increased over the past few decades, affected by increased development in rural areas, changing fuel management policies, and climate change, all of which are projected to increase in the future. This paper is Part II of a two-part review, which presents a summary of fundamental and applied research on pathways to fire spread in the wildland urban interface. Part I discussed the fundamentals of wildland fire spread via radiative heat transfer, direct flame contact, and firebrand exposure. Here in Part II, we cover the response of building components and systems, as well as mitigation strategies used to prevent fire spread into and within communities in the United States. Post-fire investigations, full-scale structural testing, individual component testing, and combined systems or assembly testing have been used to identify building component and system vulnerabilities such as roofs, vents, siding, decks, fences, and mulch. Using results from these tests and investigations at different scales, some knowledge has been gained on specific vulnerabilities and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies, but a quantitative framework has not yet been established. On a community level, the layout of structures and the space between them has been shown to be incredibly important in mitigating wildfire risk. More locally, defensible space around homes has been effective in mitigating exposure from both radiation and direct flame contact. Firebrands still remain a challenge; however, many design recommendations have been proposed to harden structures against firebrand exposures. Recommendations for future research and development are also presented.

Characterising resource use and potential inefficiencies during large-fire suppression in the western US

Authored by H. Katuwal; Published 2017

Currently, limited research on large-fire suppression effectiveness suggests fire managers may over-allocate resources relative to values to be protected. Coupled with observations that weather may be more important than resource abundance to achieve control objectives, resource use may be driven more by risk aversion than efficiency. To explore this potential, we investigated observed percentage of perimeter contained and self-reported containment values, the exposure index, and patterns of resource use during the containment and control phases of fire response. Fireline production capacity of responding resources typically exceeds final fire perimeter, often by an order of magnitude or more. Additionally, on average, 21% of total incident resource productive capacity was observed on the fire during the control phase, that is, after the fires cease to grow. Our results suggest self-reported percentage containment significantly underestimates actual percentage of perimeter contained throughout an incident, with reported values averaging only 70% contained at actual fire cessation. Combined, these results suggest a fire manager’s risk perception influences resource use and may unnecessarily expose responders to fireline hazards. These results suggest a considerable opportunity to improve large-fire management efficiency by balancing the likelihood and consequences of fire escape against the opportunity cost of resource use.

Shared visions, future challenges: a case study of three Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program locations

Authored by E.H. Walpole; Published 2017

The USDA Forest Service is encouraging the restoration of select forest ecosystems through its Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). Collaboration is often necessary to implement landscape-scale management projects such as these, and a substantial body of research has examined the benefits and limitations of using collaboration as a tool for improving relationships, trust, and other outcomes among stakeholder groups. However, limited research has investigated the use of collaboration to achieve large-scale ecological restoration goals. Restoration poses some unique conditions for a collaborative approach, including reaching agreement on which historic conditions to use as a reference point, the degree of departure from these reference conditions that warrants management intervention, and how to balance historic conditions with expected future conditions and current human uses of the landscape. Using a mental-models approach, semistructured interviews were conducted with a total of 25 participants at three CFLRP sites. Results indicate that collaboration contributed to improved relationships and trust among participants, even among stakeholder groups with a history of disagreement over management goals. In addition, a shared focus on improving ecosystem resilience helped groups to address controversial management topics such as forest thinning in some areas. However, there was also evidence that CFLRP partnerships in our study locations have primarily focused on areas of high agreement among their stakeholders to date, and have not yet addressed other contentious topics. Previous studies suggest that first conducting management in areas with high consensus among participating stakeholders can build relationships and advance long-term goals. Nonetheless, our results indicate that achieving compromise in less obviously departed systems will require more explicit value-based discussions among stakeholders.

Returning Fire to the Land—Celebrating Traditional Knowledge and Fire

Authored by F.K. Lake; Published 2017

North American tribes have traditional knowledge about fire effects on ecosystems, habitats, and resources. For millennia, tribes have used fire to promote valued resources. Sharing our collective understanding of fire, derived from traditional and western knowledge systems, can benefit landscapes and people. We organized two workshops to investigate how traditional and western knowledge can be used to enhance wildland fire and fuels management and research. We engaged tribal members, managers, and researchers to formulate solutions regarding the main topics identified as important to tribal and other land managers: cross-jurisdictional work, fuels reduction strategies, and wildland fire management and research involving traditional knowledge. A key conclusion from the workshops is that successful management of wildland fire and fuels requires collaborative partnerships that share traditional and western fire knowledge through culturally sensitive consultation, coordination, and communication for building trust. We present a framework for developing these partnerships based on workshop discussions.

Telling Fire’s Story through Narrative and Art

Authored by S.W. Barrett; Published 2017

Modern works by highly skilled narrative authors and artists have become increasingly useful for telling the story of wildland fire in the United States. Using unconventional means—and with partial funding by the Joint Fire Science Program—creative individuals have spawned some colorful and heartfelt messages that convey insightful information about wildland fire, climate, and other elements of nature to an increasingly receptive public. Recent narrative works by well-known authors, such as Stephen J. Pyne, and creative art pieces by well-established and emerging artists have helped depict fire in a new light to audiences that scientists may rarely reach. This issue of Fire Science Digest describes recent books funded by the Joint Fire Science Program and other sources that focus on fire’s ecological role in various regions of the U.S. and on associated fire management issues and events. For instance, Stephen Pyne has not only written an insightful overview of contemporary fire history between 1960 and 2013, but he has also interpreted what that history has meant for the evolution of federal agencies and fire management during that time. In addition, Pyne has produced an anthology of books describing regional fire histories, such as in the Southwest, Northern Rockies, California, Florida, and other regions, that add “local color” to the overall narrative of contemporary fire history. In addition, fire-centric art projects in Alaska, Arizona, and elsewhere have helped tell fire’s story in America. Such efforts often were guided by regional fire scientists and educators to enlighten and promote a more fire-adapted society.

“The simplest way to describe fire worldwide is that there is too much of the wrong kind, too little of the right kind, and too much overall.”

- Historian Stephen J. Pyne


Studying interregional wildland fire engine assignments for large fire suppression

Authored by E.J. Belval; Published 2017

One crucial component of large fire response in the United States (US) is the sharing of wildland firefighting resources between regions: resources from regions experiencing low fire activity supplement resources in regions experiencing high fire activity. An important step towards improving the efficiency of resource sharing and related policies is to develop a better understanding of current assignment patterns. In this paper we examine the set of interregional wildland fire engine assignments for incidents in California and the Southwest Geographic Coordination Areas, utilising data from the Resource Ordering and Status System. We study a set of multinomial logistic models to examine seasonal and regional patterns affecting the probabilities of interregional resource assignments. This provides a quantitative and objective way to identify the factors strongly influencing interregional assignments. We found that the fire activity in the regions significantly affects response probabilities, as does the season and the national preparedness level. Because our models indicate significant unexplained variation, even when accounting for fire activity, seasonality and resource scarcity, we hypothesise that the existing system could benefit from future research.

Evidence of fuels management and fire weather influencing fire severity in an extreme fire event

Authored by J.M. Lydersen; Published 2017

Following changes in vegetation structure and pattern, along with a changing climate, large wildfire incidence has increased in forests throughout the western U.S. Given this increase there is great interest in whether fuels treatments and previous wildfire can alter fire severity patterns in large wildfires. We assessed the relative influence of previous fuels treatments (including wildfire), fire weather, vegetation and water balance on fire severity in the Rim Fire of 2013. We did this at three different spatial scales to investigate whether the influences on fire severity changed across scales. Both fuels treatments and previous low to moderate severity wildfire reduced the prevalence of high severity fire. In general, areas without recent fuels treatments and areas that previously burned at high severity tended to have a greater proportion of high severity fire in the Rim Fire. Areas treated with prescribed fire, especially when combined with thinning, had the lowest proportions of high severity. Proportion of the landscape burned at high severity was most strongly influenced by fire weather and proportional area previously treated for fuels or burned by low to moderate severity wildfire. The proportion treated needed to effectively reduce the amount of high fire severity fire varied by spatial scale of analysis, with smaller spatial scales requiring a greater proportion treated to see an effect on fire severity. When moderate and high severity fire encountered a previously treated area, fire severity was significantly reduced in the treated area relative to the adjacent untreated area. Our results show that fuels treatments and low to moderate severity wildfire can reduce fire severity in a subsequent wildfire, even when burning under fire growth conditions. These results serve as further evidence that both fuels treatments and lower severity wildfire can increase forest resilience.

Federal fire managers’ perceptions of the importance, scarcity and substitutability of suppression resources

Authored by C.S. Stonesifer; Published 2017

Wildland firefighting in the United States is a complex and costly enterprise. While there are strong seasonal signatures for fire occurrence in specific regions of the United States, spatiotemporal occurrence of wildfire activity can have high inter-annual variability. Suppression resources come from a variety of jurisdictions and provide a wide range of skills, experience and associated mobility and logistical needs. Dispatch centres and regional and national resource allocation centres move suppression resources to respond to demand. However, little is known about the decision-making processes driving the allocation of limited resources at the national scale, particularly during periods of increased resource scarcity. Moreover, an understanding of these systems provides no insight into the impressions from the field regarding the value and relative scarcity of specific resources. We designed and implemented an online survey of United States Forest Service employees who have direct or indirect responsibility for ordering suppression resources, with the main objective of identifying which resources the field perceived to be most important, most scarce and which were without acceptable substitutes. In this research note, we present a preliminary overview of a selection of results of our survey and discuss the next steps for potential future analyses of the dataset.

A review of challenges to determining and demonstrating efficiency of large fire management

Authored by M.P. Thompson; Published 2017

Characterising the impacts of wildland fire and fire suppression is critical information for fire management decision-making. Here, we focus on decisions related to the rare larger and longer-duration fire events, where the scope and scale of decision-making can be far broader than initial response efforts, and where determining and demonstrating efficiency of strategies and actions can be particularly troublesome. We organise our review around key decision factors such as context, complexity, alternatives, consequences and uncertainty, and for illustration contrast fire management in Andalusia, Spain, and Montana, USA. Two of the largest knowledge gaps relate to quantifying fire impacts to ecosystem services, and modelling relationships between fire management activities and avoided damages. The relative magnitude of these and other concerns varies with the complexity of the socioecological context in which fire management decisions are made. To conclude our review, we examine topics for future research, including expanded use of the economics toolkit to better characterise the productivity and effectiveness of suppression actions, integration of ecosystem modelling with economic principles, and stronger adoption of risk and decision analysis within fire management decision-making.

Assessing vulnerabilities and adapting to climate change in northwestern U.S. forests

Authored by J.E. Halofsky; Published 2017

Multiple climate change vulnerability assessments in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA provide the scientific information needed to begin adaptation in forested landscapes. Adaptation options developed by resource managers in conjunction with these assessments, newly summarized in the Climate Change Adaptation Library of the Western United States, provide an extensive choice of peer-reviewed climate-smart management strategies and tactics. More adaptation options are available for vegetation than for any other resource category, allowing vegetation management to be applied across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Good progress has been made in strategic development and planning for climate change adaptation in the Northwest, although on-the-ground implementation is in the early stages. However, recent regulatory mandates plus the increasing occurrence of extreme events (drought, wildfires, insect outbreaks) provide motivation to accelerate the adaptation process in planning and management on federal lands and beyond. Timely implementation of adaptation and collaboration across boundaries will help ensure the functionality of Northwest forests at broad spatial scales in a warmer climate.

2017 Conference on Fire Prediction Across Scales

Realistic models of fire activity and behavior are necessary for operational fire management, and to understand past and future changes in fire activity. Developing such models, however requires taking into account vegetation cover, land use practices, fire management capacity, extreme weather, and climate variability. To help foster knowledge exchange among the diverse fields of expertise involved in fire prediction, the Columbia University Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate is hosting a 2.5-day conference, organized around the themes of “Fire Prediction” and “Fire Management and Impacts”.

Registration, Abstract Submission and Travel Support:

Registration is now open via the Eventbrite page linked here.

Deadline for abstracts and travel support applications: August 1, 2017.
Please complete and send this form to Jaclyn Rabinowitz (jr3357@columbia.edu)

Regional patterns of postwildfire streamflow response in the Western United States: The importance of scale-specific connectivity

Authored by D.W. Hallema; Published 2017

Wildfires can impact streamflow by modifying net precipitation, infiltration, evapotranspiration, snowmelt, and hillslope run-off pathways. Regional differences in fire trends and postwildfire streamflow responses across the conterminous United States have spurred concerns about the impact on streamflow in forests that serve as water resource areas. This is notably the case for the Western United States, where fire activity and burn severity have increased in conjunction with climate change and increased forest density due to human fire suppression. In this review, we discuss the effects of wildfire on hydrological processes with a special focus on regional differences in postwildfire streamflow responses in forests. Postwildfire peak flows and annual water yields are generally higher in regions with a Mediterranean or semi-arid climate (Southern California and the Southwest) compared to the highlands (Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest), where fire-induced changes in hydraulic connectivity along the hillslope results in the delivery of more water, more rapidly to streams. No clear streamflow response patterns have been identified in the humid subtropical Southeastern United States, where most fires are prescribed fires with a low burn severity, and more research is needed in that region. Improved assessment of postwildfire streamflow relies on quantitative spatial knowledge of landscape variables such as prestorm soil moisture, burn severity and correlations with soil surface sealing, water repellency, and ash deposition. The latest studies furthermore emphasize that understanding the effects of hydrological processes on postwildfire dynamic hydraulic connectivity, notably at the hillslope and watershed scales, and the relationship between overlapping disturbances including those other than wildfire is necessary for the development of risk assessment tools.

An empirical machine learning method for predicting potential fire control locations for pre-fire planning and operational fire management

Authored by C.D. O'Connor; Published 2017

During active fire incidents, decisions regarding where and how to safely and effectively deploy resources to meet management objectives are often made under rapidly evolving conditions, with limited time to assess management strategies or for development of backup plans if initial efforts prove unsuccessful. Under all but the most extreme fire weather conditions, topography and fuels are significant factors affecting potential fire spread and burn severity. We leverage these relationships to quantify the effects of topography, fuel characteristics, road networks and fire suppression effort on the perimeter locations of 238 large fires, and develop a predictive model of potential fire control locations spanning a range of fuel types, topographic features and natural and anthropogenic barriers to fire spread, on a 34 000 km2 landscape in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. The boosted logistic regression model correctly classified final fire perimeter locations on an independent dataset with 69% accuracy without consideration of weather conditions on individual fires. The resulting fire control probability surface has potential for reducing unnecessary exposure for fire responders, coordinating pre-fire planning for operational fire response, and as a network of locations to incorporate into spatial fire planning to better align fire operations with land management objectives.

After the Fire Workshop: Connecting People, Ideas and Organizations

Authored by F.Learning Network; Published 2017

Fire adaptation is about more than pre-fire work. It’s also about considering the needs of a community and the land post-fire. In Washington State, the last several fire seasons have given communities lots of opportunities to learn about post-fire recovery. Last month, members of organizations that work on community issues, landscape resilience and disaster-recovery gathered to share some of the things they’ve learned.

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

Authored by T. Ingalsbee; Published 2017

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.