Catastrophic forest fires have ravaged parts of Chile, California, Portugal and Spain this year. To meet the challenge of managing wildfires as essential ecosystem components while avoiding their negative societal impacts, we suggest that the current political and scientific agenda should include new science-based education programmes for fire professionals.
Wildfire activity has risen in recent years. The conventional response has been to increase resources for fire extinction, but the few blazes that escape can quickly become mega-fires. More fire analysts are needed worldwide who can take real-time decisions to effectively manage such breakaway wildfires according to each particular set of circumstances.
Using science to inform education would better equip fire professionals to tackle such catastrophes as they become more frequent. Carefully designed degree programmes would bring together disparate research on applied fire science and provide instruction on wildfire management and on forest ecology and evolution. Such courses could also improve understanding of the effects of global change on wildfires and of emergency strategies and responses.
Nature 551, 300 (2017)