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Introduction to FireWords

Consistent terminology is critical to efficient communication. The lexicon of any particular field of study is established over many years in its literature, textbooks, and training material. The field of wildland fire science is relatively young; there are no standard textbooks with an exhaustive glossary of technical terms. In the literature we find inconsistent terminology -- several terms to define the same concept, and several concepts sharing the same term. It is often difficult to determine the intended meaning of many wildland fire science documents without benefit of a glossary for that particular document; this leads to difficulty assembling knowledge drawn from a variety of sources, and slows the flow of information and concepts.


There are several glossaries of wildland fire management terms. Each has one or more of the following drawbacks (click to expand):


  • Format


    The hard-copy format of nearly all glossaries makes them expensive to update and wasteful of natural resources. Some glossaries are distributed electronically but must still be printed for efficient use. An electronic format for delivery and viewing enables more powerful searches, facilitates faster, easier and less expensive updating, allows annotation and illustration of important concepts, and removes barriers to glossary size.


  • Extensiveness


    The NWCG-sponsored Glossary of Wildland Fire Terminology is our most extensive, containing several thousand terms. Due to space limitations of the "printed" format, each term is defined with a maximum of 256 characters, about 30 words. This limit restricts the ability to describe subtle but very important differences between related terms. FireWords will not be an extensive glossary of wildland fire terms; it will instead concentrate on the most difficult terms -- technical wildland fire science. FireWords entries will have no statutory limit on length. They will be illustrated, annotated, and cross-referenced, making FireWords an intensive glossary.


  • Authorship


    The wildland fire science community is best-served by a lexicon developed by the leading experts in the field, but edited and compiled to ensure consistency among terms. Some glossaries reflect the views of only the document author(s), others are drawn from a variety of authors but have not been compiled to ensure consistency among the terms. FireWords terms will be authored by subject-matter specialists in wildland fire science -- researchers, professors, and experienced managers. The terms will then be edited for consistency among related terms by the FireWords compilers.



FireWords is a hyper-linked, searchable, indexed, annotated and illustrated, electronic glossary of wildland fire science terminology. It is a living document; new terms will be added as need indicates and funding allows. FireWords will be available as a compiled HTML Help document for use on a Windows PC, as well as in WebHelp format, which can be used in any web browser on any computer platform (Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, etc.). Also, for use when the user does not have access to a machine with FireWords installed, the WebHelp version of FireWords will be served over the Internet at www.firewords.net.