Wildland Firefighter Health
Over the last 2 years, we have continued to characterize fire activity across the country as unprecedented and recordbreaking; it has challenged our wildland fire response system and all of us who are a part of it. Of course, another factor over these past 2 fire years has added dramatically to that challenge, the likes of which we have never had to address before in the modern era—the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has posed many challenges to our wildland fire management operations, from the health, staffing, and adaptability of day-to-day operations on the ground to impacts on the global supply chain, which have caused intermittent shortages of fire equipment, vendors, and materials.
This issue of Fire Management Today contains articles discussing how the Forest Service and its partners have found solutions to these challenges. One article (“How Covid-19 Tested the Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Learning System”) looks at how organizational learning played a critical role in adapting best practices and procedures for day-to-day operations. The 2020 fire year was truly a test of a learning system and culture that have evolved from the agency’s inception. Since none of us had experience with fire operations in a pandemic, wildland firefighters had to adopt new ways of managing landscape- scale wildfires at a pace and extent never seen before in a single fire year. The collective wildland fire organization and its people learned and adapted in realtime. As our understanding of the challenges of fighting wildfire while responding to COVID-19 continues to evolve, the Forest Service’s learning system and our ongoing efforts to communicate, overcome roadblocks, innovate, and share and integrate innovations into the organization will become more important than ever.