1 2020

UPDATE: IAWF President’s Message – Australia (January 27, 2020). 


by Alen Slijepcevic (past president) and Toddi Steelman (current president)

IAWF’s charge is to tackle the biggest contemporary issues confronting the wildland fire community as we seek a more sustainable wildland fire paradigm. Recent times have shown us just how challenging that charge is, with major destructive fires in most regions of our operations including both North and South America, Australia and Europe. As newly elected IAWF President and as recent past-president, we build on the good work of all the presidents before us. And we are proud to work alongside Euan Ferguson as our newly elected Vice President from Australia, as wecontinue to embrace the importance of our international mission. 

Transition times are healthy for re-asserting our mission and future goals as we look forward. We are ushering in a new decade that promises new challenges and new opportunities.

We have had a very good two years – making greater inroads to become a truly international association; advancing mentoring; holding the Fire Behavior and Fuels conference on three continents simultaneously; hosting the 15th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit and 5th Human Dimensions Conference and two Annual National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshops; developing issue/discussion papers; updating and improving our website, developing the Diversity and Inclusivity policy and established an active committee to advance it; helping to advance the Cohesive Strategy in the US; and further strengthening our role as a non-partisan professional society. Transition times are healthy for re-asserting our mission and future goals as we look forward. We are ushering in a new decade that promises new challenges and new opportunities. At the IAWF Board meeting in October 2019, we affirmed our mission and defined key goals for our next two years.  

IAWF board planning session
IAWF Board planning session in Plymouth, MA., prior to the Cohesive Strategy Conference.

Networks connecting the wildland fire community 

IAWF creates networks across sectors, fields and disciples to connect the wildfire community through multiple platforms through which we communicate and convene including conferences, our website, the premier academic journal in our field (International Journal of Wildland Fire), our magazine (Wildfire) and various social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). In 2020 we will feature the 3rd International Smoke Symposium (Raleigh, NC and UC Davis, CA, April 2020) as well as the next iteration in the regional meetings for the US-based Cohesive Strategy Workshop (Asheville, NC October 2020). We aspire to hold a flagship international conference in May 2021 in California that will focus on Climate and Fire to concentrate our attention on one of the most important forces shaping wildfire and how we will respond to it in the new decade. 

Regional and International Impact

IAWF provides regional and international impact through partnerships that leverage the considerable expertise throughout our association’s network. We have developed MOUs with regional and national partners such as Pau Costa Foundation (Spain) and the Wildland Fire Management Working Group (Canada) (see IAWF News for details), as well as US based partners in the US Forest Service, Department of Interior and Association of Fire Ecology. We are working on agreements with Australia (pending) and others. In the next two years, we aim to extend our impact through partnering with many countries much like we did through Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference in Australia, France and the United States. We will extend regional work into Canada in the near future as we anticipate taking over organizing the Canadian Wildland Fire Conference in 2021. We see greater potential to work with partners in New Zealand, across the European Union, South Africa, Indonesia, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Mexico and China—but we need to more actively recruit members in these regions who want to be part of our Association.

A Sense of Belonging

IAWF strives to create a sense of belonging among our diverse geographically dispersed wildland fire community members by sharing knowledge, convening and developing a sense of inclusiveness. This includes a sense of shared solidarity in who we are and the values we uphold. Our ad hoc committee on Diversity and Inclusion is striving to set a standard for others in the wildland fire community to follow as we address issues related to sexual harassment and workplace misconduct. In the coming two years, our inclusivity mission will extend questions of inclusivity into workforce resilience, especially in the face of new generational demands for quality of life and the looming challenge of dealing with an extended fire season that promises to stretch into a whole calendar year. Looking within our organizations to see how we can create greater resilience and among our people will be essential to career longevity and a sustainable workforce.  

We – as new president and past-president – very much look forward to the next two years and what we can accomplish together.