Fire managers from the U.S. Forest Service were surveyed to determine which decision factors most strongly influenced their fire‐risk decisions. Safety, the resources at risk, public opinion, and the reliability of information were important influences on these decisions. This research allowed direct comparison between fire managers’ perceptions of factor importance and how their fire‐risk decisions changed in response to those factors. These risk decisions were highly responsive to changes in context (an escaped wildfire decision versus a prescribed burning decision) as well as to changing factors. The results demonstrate the utility of using scenarios in risk research and the vital importance of context in studying risk‐taking behavior. Research which attempts to remove risk decisions from their real‐world context may well distort the nature of risk‐taking behavior.