Forest fire managers have been quick to capitalise on recent developments in computer hardware and software as they took place. Model development in support of land and forest management generally proliferated during the last few decades. Based initially on linear-programming techniques (eg. FORPLAN) the conceptual thinking behind the modelling effort evolved gradually to take account of research outcomes in areas such as artificial intelligence (eg. expert systems). In fire management, computerised predictions were achieved initially for fire behaviour and fire danger rating. Later refinements included the development of computer based representations of fire management systems that, in principle, enable simulation of the actual decision making process. Recent work in forestry and elsewhere suggests that these developments may exhibit inherent limitations attributable to non-technical causes not normally considered. In this paper we consider the implications of such claims for the management of prescribed fire in south-east Australia. Our approach is to examine the record in south-east Australia for the past fifty years of fire events, developments in fire research, changes in land and forest administration, and the people behind them. An attempt is made to interpret the nature (viz. deterministic or otherwise) of key factors and events in the history of current fire management practices and administration in one of the world's most fire prone environments. In conclusion, we speculate briefly on the possible future role for computer based support for planned burning within this particular mix of cultural, administrative and physical environmcnts. © by the Society of American Foresters. Abstract reproduced by permission.