In the contexts of natural resource management (NRM) and disaster risk reduction (DRR), landholders are increasingly expected to take responsibility for issues which extend beyond property boundaries. Numerous programs are being developed to train landholders to meet these expectations, however the ontological underpinnings, goals and outcomes of these programs can be radically different. Using sustainable fire management as a case study, we compare a modernist approach to training, which educates landholders in the scientific and legislative aspects of NRM and DRR with the aim of persuading them towards particular decisions, with a relational framework which aims to develop new ways of knowing and being that recognises the mutually entwined trajectories of embodied humans, fire and land. Each of these programs initially appeals to different landholders but we suggest that learning styles are malleable and that training has the potential to guide not only what landholders do with their land, but also their ways of 'knowing' human/fire/land relations. We discuss the circumstances in which each program might be most appropriate and conclude by emphasising the importance of explicit consideration of these issues by training organisations, funding bodies and policy makers.