In the last 50 years, Federal fire policy has undergone tremendous change. Some people (including the author) can still remember when the goal of wildland firefighting was simple: put out every fire by 10 a.m. on the morning after it was first detected. Since then, Federal policy for wildland fire management has grown more complex. The changes triggered shifts in terminology, such as 'wildfire' versus 'wildland fire.' When and why did changes in Federal fire policy occur? This article focuses on the evolution of the Forest Service’s policy of using unplanned ignitions to reduce fuels and allow fire to play its natural ecological role.