Why TNC Engages in
Fire Management
Operating Assumptions


Operating Assumptions of the Manual

The Fire Management Manual was developed under the following operating assumptions:

  1. Predictability. Fire management is a complex system involving social, physical, and biological phenomena that are orderly enough to allow for prediction and planning. We can predict what actions will improve social acceptance of fire management; we can predict a great deal about fire behavior given information on fuels, weather, and topography; we can predict how firebreaks, ignition patterns, equipment, and crew deployment will allow us to contain fires; and, we can predict enough about fire effects to know when fire contributes to and when it detracts from conservation objectives.

  2. Contingency planning and wide safety margins. Even though much in fire management is predictable, information can be incorrect and conditions transitory. To circumvent this problem, contingency planning is programmed into the fire management process. We constantly consider "worst case" and "what if" scenarios. Potential problems include equipment failure, spotting fires (i.e. lofted embers spreading fire), unanticipated changes in weather, and crew communications problems. The probability of any problem occurring can be minimized by establishing wide safety margins: more equipment than needed; a firebreak that is more than minimally adequate; conservative, yet effective, fire behavior prescriptions; and a trained and experienced crew. A problem in any one area is more easily absorbed if other areas exceed minimally acceptable needs.

  3. Exceptions are permitted with approval. Many requirements and guidelines presented in the Manual may be exempted if the exception is justified and approved in the review process. We recognize that what is reasonable and prudent in most cases is needlessly encumbering in others. The burden of proof rests with the planner, Burn Boss, or Fire Manager requesting the exception. If the request is presented and well supported, exceptions are granted, providing that the Conservancy's wildland fire standards remain consistently high.

  4. Planning is essential. A fundamental assumption in the Manual is that planning is an important institutional means of ensuring that fire management is necessary, safely applied, and ecologically effective. The planning process defines objectives, specifies procedures, and allows for accountability.

  5. The goal is to facilitate, not encumber. We all recognize the necessity of conducting prescribed burns on landscapes important to the Conservancy. A primary function of this Manual is to standardize the planning and implementation of fire management programs so that staff and partners fully understand the required procedures and their rationale. Our intention is not to hinder the process or to limit prescribed burning, but rather to insure that all burns are justified, safe, and likely to be effective. Remember, every wildfire we engage and burn we initiate has the potential for negative unintended outcomes for both the organization and the participating individuals.

  6. Consultation and consensus. The Manual cannot cover every possible situation. Consultations with your supervisor, Fire Manager, Fire Management Advisory Team representative, Fire Management Coordinator, TNC Attorney, Science Director, and outside advisors are integral parts of any fire management program. Consultation can result in additional steps taken to mitigate potential risks or otherwise protect the organization and the public.

  7. Define objectives, then adjust. Ecological objectives pursued through wildland fire management are almost always adjusted for fire control and smoke management considerations. Identifying the most ecologically favorable conditions for achieving an objective and then being able to recognize the adjustments that need to be made for safety reasons are skills developed through years of education, training, and experience. We expect TNC staff to be both ecologically astute in their justification of fire management needs and fire-control conscious in the application of burns. For these reasons, fire management personnel must have the appropriate training and experience defined in this Manual.

  8. Multiple strategies. As the Conservancy strives to correct the problems caused by the alteration of historic fire regimes, we must employ a diverse set of strategies. We must work with agencies and governments to educate key decision makers, change policies and laws where appropriate, educate the public, and more. Our prescribed fire guidelines and requirements must fit into the overall organizational strategy for addressing fire issues across the globe.
Last updated July 20, 2017.

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