An interagency research team studied fire communications that took place during different stages of two wildfires in southern California: one small fire of short duration and one large fire of long duration. This "quick- response" research showed that pre-fire communication planning was particularly effective for smaller fire events and parts of that planning proved invaluable for the large fire event as well. Information seeking by the affected public relied on locally convenient sources during the small fire. During the large fire, widespread evacuations disrupted many of the local informal communication networks. Residents' needs were for "real-time, " place-specific information: precise location, severity, size, and direction of spread of the fires. Fire management agencies must contribute real-time, place-specific fire information when it is most needed by the affected public, as they try to make sense out of the chaos of a wildland fire. Disseminating fire information as broadly as possible through multiple pathways will maximize the probability of the public finding the information they need. ?? Society for Human Ecology.