In Mediterranean Europe, land abandonment and fire suppression have given rise to increasingly bigger wildfires, generating large (im)material losses and environmental impact. Contrary to popular belief, fire is not necessarily a negative phenomenon in Mediterranean ecosystems. Fire as an ecological agent is known to produce positive effects, as many species have developed adaptations to fire. Increasingly, fire is used -intentionally- as a tool to attain management objectives, ranging from fuel control to improving ecological values. However, as of yet, fire science is a strongly technocratic field, in which there is little research on the link between these physical fires, the environmental benefits they are able to produce (ecosystem services) and the emotions and experiences produced by these fires.
To enhance our understanding of fire as both a physical and mental phenomenon and thus help the transition towards co-existence with fire, this study compares two forms of fire -wildfires and prescribed fires- on their respective biophysical effects, the ecosystem services they produce and the emotional response they generate. The results indicate that high fire severity -such as in wildfires- diminishes ecosystem service produced, while prescribed fires -lower in severity- can promote ecosystem services. Secondly, the lack of control in wildfires is associated with strong negative emotions, while the control in prescribed fires generate more moderately positive emotional responses.
This study proposes a conceptual framework, using the two previously mentioned dimensions -fire severity and fire control- as a means to increase the potential forms of fire being discussed to four “fire archetypes”. In order to facilitate this discussion two design products are developed; (1) a card game, meant to bridge the gap between the technical and emotional aspects of fire and (2) a proposal for a fire landscape park, illustrating how the fire archetypes from the conceptual framework might be implemented.