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Anne E. Black, P. Hayes, R. Strickland
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Effects
Fuel Treatments & Effects
Prescribed Fire-use treatments
Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Organizational Learning & Innovation

NRFSN number: 20888
FRAMES RCS number: 60889
Record updated:

Purpose of Review: Prescribed fire escapes continue to challenge most fire and land management agencies and many communities. This article considers the issue from knowledge management (KM) and organizational learning (OL) perspectives. We review organizational initiatives and the literature that have developed over the last 10 years to support learning from escaped prescribed fires, then use this to evaluate current learning practices and identify potential next frontiers for improving performance. Due to the difficulty obtaining statistics for non-federal entities, this review focuses primarily on developments in the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, but also captures reviews from the US Department of Interior, and the State of Victoria, Australia.

Recent Findings: The recurring issue of prescribed fire escapes may in part be explained by the increasing challenges and expectations fire and land management agencies and prescribed fire managers face. Agencies are being asked to burn more area and suitably contain prescribed fires with fewer resources. In many jurisdictions, this challenge is heightened by increasingly tough climate conditions, shifting demographics internal and external to their agencies, changing patterns of land use, and requirements to meet increasing fuel reduction targets. A range of interventions has been developed and implemented by state and federal land and fire management agencies to support improved performance through KM and OL. However, prescribed fires continue to escape, often for the same reasons they always have, leading us to ask: is there a next frontier or level for improving performance though learning?

Summary: This paper reviews recent developments in KM and OL to develop a model of organizational learning for prescribed fire. We then use this lens to review learning from prescribed burn escapes in Australia and the USA, highlighting the opportunities and challenges that agencies continue to face. Four areas of concentration to further strengthen OL are proposed, namely (i) strengthening the organizational learning culture, (ii) greater use of communities of practice to enhance lesson sharing, (iii) addressing the slow build time for prescribed burning expertise to replace pending retirements, and (iv) improving non-technical skills and human factors training.


Black, Anne E.; Hayes, P.; Strickland, R. 2020. Organizational learning from prescribed fire escapes: a review of developments over the last 10 years in the USA and Australia. Current Forestry Reports online early.

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