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The Wicked Wildfire Problem & A Year of Innovation

The Wicked Wildfire Problem and A Year of Innovation and Action to Reduce Negative Impacts from Wildfires

Wicked problems are defined by the complexity of the problem with many authorities all playing a role in the solution. The wicked wildfire problem describes the increasingly devastating impacts from wildfires both on society and ecosystems. 

On May 11th, 2022 Earth Lab Analytics Hub Director, Natasha Stavros, will be hosting a  workshop with the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) that provides an overview of efforts to coordinate fire research, management, policy, and technology development for coordinated action to reduce negative impacts from wildfire. If you want to be a part of the solution and learn how you plug into all these efforts? This workshop is for you! You can register at

This panel builds on a workshop hosted by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) in March 2021. Leading change agents in fire policy, technology, decision support, and science met to clearly define the roadblocks for real-time detection and tracking of the fires that matter. We define “the fires that matter” as megafires - or fires with great negative social impact. 

We outlined problems, solutions, and next steps needed to improve coordination related to: 1) interagency organization; 2) data and observations; 3) research and development; and 4) financing and business. These led to four specific recommendations on a need for: 1) an interagency, national strategy; 2) fire-specific technology for accessible data collections; 3) focus shift towards building resilient communities; and 4) funding models that leverage government and private sector strengths. The specific problems, solutions, and actions identified are as follows:

KISS March 2021 Wicked Wildfire Problem Definition
Natasha Stavros

Since the March 2021 KISS workshop, many major national efforts have occurred including: national policies and funding, research agendas, agency coordination, and big technology investments.

In this May 2022 pre-IAWF workshop panel, we will provide an overview of that workshop, updates from representatives of major efforts (e.g., review of congressional bills, NSF Innovation Lab to set the next decade research agenda, cross-agency coordination, and foundations/big tech investors), and a public Question and Answer session