What Firefighters' Stories Can Teach Us

May 15, 2019

Firefighters work in high-stress, high-stakes environments, constantly making choices in the face of cascading uncertainty. They’re putting their lives on the line and taking into consideration everything that’s in the path of a blaze, including people, property, animals, and even environmental resources, like water.

The fire season has also become longer and more intense, and many in the fire community are reporting conditions they’ve never experienced before. People across the West are wondering who will be hit next by a devastating fire, as we saw in recent years in Paradise, Santa Rosa, and other towns.

Communities have certainly been affected by the changing fire activity, but how has that shift impacted the training and response of those who are on the front lines?

In this Science Distilled episode, we are going to talk about how firefighters analyze risk and make decisions in the face of fires that have become not only more frequent, but more extreme as well. The topic was discussed earlier this year at the Science Distilled Lecture series produced by the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum and the Desert Research Institute.

Tamara Wall is an associate research professor of atmospheric science at the Desert Research Institute, and Lynda Walsh is an associate professor of English and a rhetorician at the University of Nevada, Reno. They spoke at the event, and afterward with KUNR, about what their research can teach us about risk, values, and decision-making.