1 wildfire



Wildfires globally have changed and will continue to do so, partly because of extreme weather events and increasingly longer periods of fuel availability. Scientific forecasts indicate that the incidence of large wildfires will worsen due to a warmer and more energetic atmosphere.

Recently in many parts of the world wildfires have become extremely complex emergencies that have threatened lives, infrastructure, and natural ecosystems. Many of these wildfire emergencies also occur simultaneously, often exceeding response capabilities. Changes in the timing, complexity and intensity of wildfires increase demand for international resources to complement national efforts.

There are several examples of countries requiring international assistance for large wildland fires: Portugal, Chile, and the United States in 2017; Northern European countries, South Africa, and the United States in 2018; Bolivia in 2019; Australia, Argentina and the United States in 2020; and Chile, Greece and Canada in 2023. So far in 2024, Colombia has already activated international aid mechanisms to respond to wildfires.

These emergencies that require international aid underline the need to improve co-operation among countries to respond to large and complex fires that spread over significant areas and last for weeks.

International co-operation should not be based exclusively on sending aerial and / or land resources to the countries that experience wildfires that exceed their response capacity; units that come from different parts of the world must know how to work together in a co-ordinated manner, understanding the needs of local authorities and the scenarios they face, the possible operations to be carried out within the organizational framework, and work procedures of the organization receiving aid – everything that improves and ensures interoperability among responders.

Given the increasing need for international support, it is necessary to go one step further and create exchange programs between wildland firefighters from different countries to generate trust and ensure interoperability; the backbone of these programs is the transfer of experience and knowledge around management of large wildfire events. The exchange of working procedures can lead to better co-ordination and collaboration among participating firefighting forces.

Conceptual diagram of the knowledge and experience exchange project EGIF (Equipo de Gestión de Incendios Forestales in Spanish, or Wildland Fire Management Team), sponsored by the National Forestry Corporation of Chile (Corporación Nacional Forestal, CONAF) and co-ordinated by the Pau Costa Foundation. Source: CONAF/Pau Costa Foundation.

A simulated wildfire scenario on a digital sandbank. August 2023. Source: CONAF/Pau Costa Foundation.
Organizations participating in the EGIF 2023 Equipo de Gestión de Incendios Forestales (EGIF) program in Chile. Source: CONAF/Pau Costa Foundation.

This idea is not new and has been implemented for decades in the military and civil security. With this idea of sharing and exchanging knowledge, experiences, and work methodologies in mind, the international program EGIF (Equipo de Gestión de Incendios Forestales in Spanish, or Wildland Fire Management Team) was born, sponsored by the National Forestry Corporation of Chile (Corporación Nacional Forestal, CONAF) and co-ordinated by the Pau Costa Foundation.


The EGIF program is part of a broader project to exchange experiences and knowledge led by Corporación Nacional Forestal and developed jointly with the Pau Costa Foundation. The project aimed to grow and evolve CONAF’s wildfire management through the creation of a training framework for its firefighters and technical staff.

Two phases were designed; first, the creation of a training framework that gathered all the knowledge of the foundation’s network and CONAF on forest fires management and response. In addition to the creation of an online platform that collected all the theoretical knowledge, exercises and simulations were organized, through which participants could put the acquired knowledge into practice and develop skills and aptitudes for the positions they will perform.

During this stage of the learning process, the use of simulated real-fire scenarios allowed students to practice the competencies defined in the training framework for the position for which they were training.

The experience gained during the response phase in a real wildfire cannot and should not be replaced, but through different training methodologies (digital sandboxes, real fire workshops, drills, tactical decisions exercises) real situations that arise in wildfire emergencies can be simulated and provide an environment through which participants can gain confidence and improve leadership and teamwork capabilities.

A second phase needed to be designed to introduce changes to working procedures and the methodologies use in the decision-making process with the new vision, knowledge and methods acquired through the training framework. The idea was to use real scenarios of wildland fire emergencies for exchange and support the implementation of new decision-making processes, and new methodologies for analysing wildfires and operations. This is how the EGIF program was born, a program that would generate an international multidisciplinary team of wildfire professionals who would work together during the forest fire season in Chile to exchange visions and improve working procedures during a real wildfire emergency around certain thematic areas identified as priorities by CONAF. These were:

• Analysis of wildfire behavior

• Operations (use of technical fire and emergency organization)

• Aerial co-ordination

• Human factors

Between the two editions of the EGIF program that have been carried out in Chile, some 70 professionals from five countries belonging to 10 organizations have been mobilized, becoming a benchmark program in the exchange of professionals before, during and after the wildfire emergency.

Probe launch on the right flank-tail of the Quilmo wildfire shown on Feb. 2, 2023. Source: CONAF/Pau Costa Foundation


During Chile’s 2023 fire season, the functions entrusted to the EGIF team were:

• Increase the capacity to predict the risk and behavior of wildfires through joint work with the CONAF analysis unit.

• Support the incident command, and the operations and planning sections during the development of a wildfire in the decision-making process and in the design of efficient and safe strategies by anticipating the evolution of the wildfire.

• Advise on the co-ordination of the aerial operations through the development o f the air tactical supervisor position.

• Advise and implement the human factor program for CONAF staff.

The EGIF team was structured into different areas and work cells, which allowed it to perform the functions simultaneously and in a co-ordinated manner, optimizing resources, efficiency and safety.

The analysis cell aimed to put into practice different approaches on how to understand, anticipate and explain the behavior and propagation of a wildfire, consensually creating an analysis methodology based on the best practices of the participating organizations inside the EGIF. For this, the guides developed in the European project Advance Fire Analysis Network (AFAN) about remote and on-site wildfire analysis methodologies were used as a reference.

The structure of the analysis cell was designed to obtain and analyse real-time information about a wildfire, being made available to the incident commander and the analysis section.

This structure, already tested in the previous edition of the EGIF program, provided the system with greater intelligence capacity to improve decision making in command posts. This was possible because, thanks to EGIF, a consensual and orderly methodology for data collection and subsequent analysis was established.

During the 2023 edition, the analysis cell had the opportunity to study the fire-atmosphere interaction in pyro-convection processes. The objective was to collect atmospheric data and data from the vertical profiles outside and especially inside the convective column of the fires, intending to validate the convection models within the analysis of wildfires. It was therefore about expanding knowledge about the interaction between atmosphere and wildfire.

The operations cell was designed to improve decision making in the operational field and the correct implementation of the Incident Command System (ICS) during the emergency.

This cell comprised two work areas with specific functions: the aerial operations area’s main function was the creation of the air tactical team belonging to CONAF. For this purpose, aerial operations managers with extensive experience travelled from Spain to train and guide future CONAF supervisors.

The ICS / operations area was tasked with assisting in the implementation of the ICS during the emergency and advising on strategies and tactics according to the fire analysis and available resources.

Meetings with Spanish personnel deployed to the fires in Chile through the European civil protection mechanism. Source: CONAF/Pau Costa Foundation.

Finally, the human factor area was established to create the first team of psychologists for wildfire emergencies, to help implement work procedures for extinguishing wildfires and identifying the areas of improvement in everything related to the human factor (communication, co-ordination, teamwork, leadership, motivation, and emotional management).

Through the creation of this team of psychologists, EGIF promoted a program to encourage safety and operational effectiveness, focusing on the most important and vulnerable part of the system – the people and work teams, or the human factor.


During the 2023 edition, EGIF provided its services in six regions of central Chile: Valparaíso, Metropolitana de Santiago, Libertador General O’Higgins, Maule, Ñuble and Biobío. The program was activated for a total of 29 wildfires recorded in the region.

On Feb. 1, EGIF decided to move to the Ñuble region, as a result of the atmospheric configuration that was about to unfold throughout the central area of the country, which brought with it strong dry winds from Argentina, which led to considerable increase in temperatures and a marked decrease in relative humidity.

The fire risk index for the following days increased significantly; any heat source would have a high probability of igniting a wildfire, which, added to high loads of available fuel and easterly wind from the Andes, established a fire environment conducive to large wildfires. The probability of this event was very high and therefore justified the transfer of the EGIF team to the Ñuble region.

Upon arrival, the Ñuble region was already showing fire activity, with three active fires throughout the region that day.

On Feb. 2, the meteorological conditions worsened, presenting very low relative humidity and reinforced wind of the S component (SW-S-SE) with gusts in the early and late hours of the day exceeding 40-50 kilometres per hour. This was the day on which the simultaneous episode began, with multiple fires in the regions of Biobío and Ñuble mainly that developed convective behavior, very high propagation speeds and spot fires at hundreds of meters.

On Feb. 3, the general wind situation changed to a SE component. The movement toward the south of the “coastal low” (low pressure from the Pacific Ocean) further reinforced the entry of the dry and warm wind from the Argentine pampas.

As the coastal low moved further south, the night of Feb. 3-4 caused the most significant growth of the fires in the regions of Biobío and Araucanía.

During the simultaneous episodes in the regions of Maule, Ñuble and Biobío more than 200,000 hectares burned between Feb. 1 and the early hours of Feb. 4. In the Santa Ana fire, more than 100,000 hectares burned in less than 48 hours.

On Feb. 4, weather conditions improved, and the fire growth rates decreased considerably, despite the hundreds of kilometres of perimeter that were still active that day.

This dramatic event motivated EGIF to fully focus on the response, maximizing the analysis and aerial operations structure that was already deployed on the ground.

Moments of international collaboration in the Santa Ana fire, Concepción. Source: CONAF/Pau Costa Foundation.

The deployment of this type of analysis unit in an extreme fire event means being able to have a global vision of the entire event and leaving behind the multiple local perspectives from the regions and incident command posts deployed on the different fires.

EGIF proposed to address the simultaneity by dividing the scenario into various fire complexes and treating each one as a single incident, with an incident commander who had a vision of the overall scenario at a macro level and with clear strategic and tactical objectives.

Work priorities were passed for each of the identified complexes and deeper analyses were carried out on the most notable fires, such as the Santa Ana´s.


During the stay of the EGIF team in Chile and because of the fire simultaneity that began on Feb. 2, the Chilean government decided to request international aid from neighboring countries and activate the European Civil Protection Mechanism.

Members of the EGIF team are part of this European solidarity response mechanism, and European organizations from countries such as Spain and Portugal that responded to the request from the Chilean government had fire experts within the EGIF team. In such situation, the CONAF requests the EGIF team to facilitate the coordination and integration of the international teams deployed to the scene of operations, especially the teams coming from Europe.

Once the activation of the European Civil Protection Mechanism was known, EGIF sent the most up-todate information possible to the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) through the reports that the analysis cell compiled daily. This meant that the ERCC, whose mission is to coordinate international aid from Europe, had up-to-date and relevant information about what was happening on the ground and short-term forecasts. This information allowed the ERCC to select the optimal type of resources and equipment to offer to the request for help from the government of Chile.

Once the requested resources arrived in Chile, communication channels were opened with the European teams, with the aim of continuing to provide updated information.

The EGIF team also played an important role in facilitating the coordination of international resources deployed mainly in the Santa Ana fire, in the Biobío region. The team promoted the integration and coordination of resources from Mexico, Argentina, Spain and Portugal by facilitating planning and operations meetings among all the participating organizations.

The EGIF program has undoubtedly generated trust among the organizations that have participated in it, allowing professionals from different areas of expertise to exchange views and ideas before, during and after the emergency. Following the famous phrase “train as you perform, perform as you train” the EGIF program was designed. Thanks to CONAF for promoting this program and for trusting the Pau Costa Foundation to lead it.

Juan Caamaño works as head of the training and operations area of the Pau Costa Foundation. He started his career as a wildland firefighter in 2000 and since then has worked with multiple organizations in Spain and abroad, always linked to operations. Caamaño has an MSc in forestry engineering and since beginning his career has been involved in training and the design of new learning methods to improve respond capacities.
Jorge García Rivera has a degree in forestry engineering and masters in forest fires. He has worked for many years as helitack crew leader for the Spanish government and as member of the prevention teams called EPRIF, executing prescribed burns for the reduction of fire risk and the creation of pastures for livestock farming. Now currently is works in operational and training with Pau Costa Foundation.