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NWFSC Research Brief #15: Conflict Around Suppression: Drivers and Legacies

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In this study, researchers interviewed 48 residents, community leaders, and professionals involved in wildfire and forest management during the 2006 Columbia Complex Fire in southeastern Washington State. The fire burned 109,402 acres of grain, pasture, and forest as well as 28 structures around Dayton, WA and was managed at different stages by teams from all three levels of the Incident Command (IC) system, with multiple state, federal, and international fire teams involved. Conflict surrounding the fires’ management was covered by the media. Researchers interviewed local community members (external IC team members were not interviewed) about the roots of the conflict between local rural residents and the external Incident Command system. In particular, they sought to identify specific elements of social interaction and underlying structure that led to tensions with Incident Command teams during the wildfire, and whether the conflict persisted long-term.