Managing Complexity: The Art of Fighting Fires


26 May, 2020 by James Lawther

Managing Complexity

In the late 00’s Michelle Barton and Kathleen Sutcliffe carried out a study of wildfires in the US.  They wanted to understand why some fires were well controlled and brought to a swift and happy conclusion, whilst others ran out of control causing millions of dollars of damage to thousands of acres of land.

They interviewed 28 firefighters from the north and south western states. This gave them insights into 62 different incidents.

The researchers categorised the outcome of the incidents as good or bad by how well the firefighters managed to control the blaze.  At one extreme, fires were quickly extinguished whilst at the other they caused significant damage to property and on occasion firefighters had to run for their lives — literally.

They found patterns in the behaviour of those teams that controlled fires, and also those that didn’t.

Firefighting is complex

Continues in source: