WILDFIRE is the management magazine of the fire service, so our readers are predominantly chief officers, especially chiefs of department. We’re potentially interested in any article that can help them do their jobs better, whether that’s as incident commanders, financial managers, supervisors, leaders, trainers, planners, or ambassadors to municipal officials or the public.
Our authors are usually WILDFIREs, although our contributors over the last several years have included other fire officers, firefighters, civilians and academics.
Article ideas Unless you’re quite sure your article will work for us, it’s a good idea to query us first. Even if we like your idea, we can often fine-tune it before you actually write the article, saving both you and us some work in the long run. Your best way to see what we’re likely to publish is to review some back issues.
The most common reason we reject a manuscript or ask the author to rewrite it is a lack of focus. Writers often tackle too large a topic, with the result that the article winds up too shallow and basic. Narrower and deeper is usually the way to go. Remember that many of our readers are highly experienced officers, often with college degrees and/or training at the National Fire Academy.
Someone once asked why, since we’re the fire service’s management magazine, we don’t publish more articles on management theory. The answer is that we don’t get many good management-related articles. It’s easy to string together some quotes from books by people like Peter Drucker or Stephen Covey (or from Reinventing Government) along with some general observations about how they relate to the fire service, but our readers won’t get much from the resulting article.
On the other hand, if your department has made some changes in its structure, budget, mission or organizational culture (or really did reinvent itself in a serious way), a case study of that process, including the mistakes made and the lessons learned, could be a winner. Similarly, if you’ve observed certain things that fire departments typically could do a lot better and you think you have the solution, let us know.
One possible source for article ideas is to ask yourself what your department is really good at. What does your department have a solid reputation for? What does your department do that other departments don’t, but possibly should?
One caution regarding that last point. Often, someone will call or write us to propose an article about a new program his or her department has just put into operation. In such cases, we almost always ask the prospective author to contact us again in six months or so. Napoleon once said that no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy, and similarly, new programs almost invariably go through a phase of fine-tuning once they’re up and running. Once you’ve made those mid-course corrections, you’ll be in a much better position to tell our readers how to carry off a similar program.
Another suggestion for article ideas is any courses you might have taught, or any presentations you might have given at a fire service (or similar) conference.
We do not publish fiction, poetry or historical articles. We also aren’t interested in straightforward accounts of fires or other incidents, unless there are one or more specific lessons to be drawn from a particular incident, especially a lesson or lessons that are applicable to a large number of departments. If you want to write an article like this for us, be prepared to discuss what went wrong and how it will be handled differently next time.
For features, length is highly flexible. We’ve run features shorter than 1,000 words and (in multiple parts) longer than 10,000, though most fall between 2,000 and 3,000 words.
Some of the features we’ve published started out as Executive Fire Officer Program papers, master’s degree theses or similar academic writing. While the content in these is often good, they usually need extensive rewriting to change the academic tone to one that’s more appropriate to a magazine article. Normally we ask the author to take the first shot at this. Also, in anything adapted from academic writing, we ask our authors to keep references (footnotes and/or endnotes) to a minimum or avoid them entirely. We prefer to instead place the best or most accessible three to six or so sources in a small sidebar.
One of the most common problems with academic papers is a lack of specific examples to illustrate the theoretical points. One way to organize a feature article is by roughly alternating “important, interesting, important, interesting,” which can also be thought of as “theory, example, theory, practice.” All theory makes for an arid, abstract article, while all examples can come off as a disjointed series of war stories. Combine them intelligently for the best results.
Our regular columns are written by standing columnists, although “Sound Off” is open to outside writers. Typical length is 1,000 to 1,800 words.
In our guest editorial, “Sound Off,” which runs on a space- and material-available basis, a point of view is important, but we also look for columns that go beyond merely opinion and constructively address some issue of importance to chief officers.
Your article will be edited by one of our staff editors, who will contact you about any areas that need to be clarified or expanded. If your article is typical, you’ll probably notice that after editing it’s shorter, yet still contains 90% to 100% of the original information. Time permitting, if an article has gone through heavy editing, or if the author has requested it, we will e-mail a PDF of the completed edit (but before final proofreading) to the author. It will be the author’s responsibility to get back to us promptly with any final changes or questions.
Authors are normally responsible for supplying any art to illustrate their articles, especially photos. Prints and slides are both acceptable, preferably color. We can’t use negatives.
Digital photos should be a minimum of 300dpi resolution at a usable size. The use of a 3-megapixel or higher camera on the best-quality JPEG or TIFF setting should present no problems. Photos embedded in an electronic document, such as a Word or PowerPoint file, are not acceptable.
Charts and graphs will be redrawn by our art director, and tables will be typeset by the editorial staff.
If there are no photos to go with an article, we’ll usually arrange for a royalty-free stock illustration or photograph to go with the article. We encourage authors to work with us in developing concepts, but we reserve the final decision as to the form and appropriateness of editorial artwork.
When your article has been accepted for publication, you’ll receive a copyright release form, which you should sign and return to us promptly. If you have any questions about the form, or if its specific wording might cause any problems, please call us. Although the specific terms of copyright release can sometimes be altered, we must have a signed copyright release on file before we print your article. Even if we fudge that, our parent company won’t pay you unless we have the copyright release on file.
One problem prospective authors should be aware of, but often aren’t, is caused when they send the same article or query to more than one publication at a time. In the magazine business, this is called simultaneous submission, and it’s a real no-no. The best approach is to decide which publication is the one you most want to submit your article to, and stick with them until they accept or reject it.
If you haven’t heard from us within 60 days of sending your query or manuscript, please call, fax or e-mail us to follow up. We have a small staff, and we often fall way behind in reviewing queries and articles.
Articles are sometimes accepted with our intent to publish them in a specific issue or with one or more other articles as part of a specific editorial package. In other cases, an article on an “evergreen” topic will be accepted with our intent to use it in the next suitable issue. (In case planned articles fall through at the last minute, we try to always have several edited articles in reserve, ready to go.) In either case, circumstances beyond our control can delay an article’s publication, sometimes for several months. Combined with deadline pressures, this can lead to the “Hurry up and wait” situation familiar to military veterans, so we ask authors to please understand. An author whose article has been accepted for publication is always welcome to call us and ask for the current schedule on his or her article.