This study focused on the role of fire both as a perceived threat and a management tool of nonindustrial private forest and tribal forest landowners or managers in two counties in northeastern Washington State. Using qualitative social research methods and a risk perception conceptual frame, we identified distinct categories of landholders with different reasons and strategies for holding and managing their forest land. We found similarities in categories of landholders and managers in each county, ranging from those who actively manage for timber production and forage, to residential and recreational users who manage for wildlife, aesthetics, or fire safety, and those who don't manage at all. We also found that landowners in the different categories tended to be concerned about different kinds of risks. There were differences between landholders in the two counties over the perception of fire as a threat and measures taken to reduce the threat of fire as well as the use of prescribed fire (broadcast burning) as a management tool. These differences can be related to landholders' experiences with fire (wild and prescribed), land tenure, financial and physical restraints, and their reasons for holding the land.