Fire management around the world is now undergoing extensive review, with a move toward fire management plans that maintain biodiversity and other ecosystems services, while at the same time mitigating the negative impacts to people and property. There is also increasing recognition of the historical and anthropogenic dimensions that underlie current fire regimes and the likelihood that projected future climate change will lead to more fires in most regions. Concurrently, resilience theory is playing an increasingly important role in understanding social-ecological systems, and new principles are emerging for building resilience in both human and natural components. Long-term fire data, provided by paleoecological and historical studies, provide a baseline of knowledge about the linkages between climate, vegetation, fire regimes, and humans across multiple temporal and spatial scales. This information reveals how processes interacting over multiple spatial and temporal scales shape the local fire conditions that influence human and ecological response. This multiscale perspective is an important addition to adaptive fire management strategies that seek to build resilience, incorporate stakeholder perspectives, and support polycentric decision making.