The flow of fluid through a pipe has been instrumental in illuminating the subcritical route to turbulence typical of many wall-bounded shear flows. Especially important in this process are the turbulent–laminar fronts that separate the turbulent and laminar flow. Four years ago Michael Graham (Nature, vol. 526, 2015, p. 508) wrote a commentary entitled ‘Turbulence spreads like wildfire’, which is a picturesque but also accurate characterisation of the way turbulence spreads through laminar flow in a straight pipe. In this spirit, the recent article by Rinaldi et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 866, 2019, pp. 487–502) shows that turbulent wildfires are substantially tamed in bent pipes. These authors find that even at modest pipe curvature, the characteristic strong turbulent–laminar fronts of straight pipe flow vanish. As a result, the propagation of turbulent structures is modified and there are hints that the route to turbulence is fundamentally altered.