Prescribed burning, to prevent larger fires or to encourage ecological restoration, is a highly contested practice, raising both complex practical questions relating to safety and techniques, and deep philosophical questions about the relationship between people and nature. Previous research either analyses conflict in forest fire management, or argues for social learning but does not discuss how this might happen. We explore what community engagement in fire management might contribute, and how policy conditions enable or constrain deliberative practices in fire management in two very different countries, Sweden and Australia. In Sweden, burning is gradually emerging on foresters' and nature conservationists' agendas, whereas in Australia, prescribed burning has been practiced and debated on a relatively broad scale for some time. Both countries rely much on technical expertise, while merging this with local knowledge in transformative processes in which conflicts and difference have a place could enhance the quality of the debates.