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A consensus history of fire in the United States has emerged over the past decade. It correctly identifies fire suppression's liabilities, while probably over-enthusing about fire-science capabilities. What it lacks, however, is a context of the subject's larger, braided narratives. There is, first, the grand story of fire on Earth. Quite apart from active suppression, open fire is disappearing in competition with industrial combustion. Second, there is the peculiar narrative of the public lands, the prime domain for wildland fires. These lands, and the institutions for their management, are rapidly changing. They began as "imperial" institutions, but now are devolving, privatizing, and otherwise decolonizing. Fire will change with those reforms. Third, there is a national narrative, currently obsessed with the collision of the wild and the exurban. This will probably pass within 5-6 years. Finally, there is the evolving narrative of how we imagine fire. We need a truly biological theory of fire, one in which we can flourish as unique fire creatures.
Conservation Biology © 2004 Wiley