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Conference goal to define sustainable wildland fire paradigm

By Toddi Steelman, IAWF President

Photo of Toddi Steelman, IAWF President
Dr. Toddi Steelman, IAWF President

The 16th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit and 6th Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference is the IAWF’s most ambitious virtual conference to date. Spanning four days – May 24-27 – over three continents and even more time zones, we tackle the safety and human dimensions issues that our wildland community faces during this challenging time. 

We want you to join us in this path-breaking conference (https://firesafety-humandimensions2021.com) as we continue to pursue IAWF’s mission to define a more sustainable wildland fire paradigm. If you are asking yourself whether you should attend, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” In attending, you will benefit from and help us connect across sectors, fields and disciplines in our wildfire community, create regional and international impact through our partnerships, and contribute to a sense of community among our diverse geographically dispersed wildland fire members. Never has achieving our goals been as challenging or as important as it is during these COVID-affected times. 

Almost 25 years ago, IAWF initiated a safety summit to explores lessons learned and best practices among Australia, Canada and the United States, and address how to keep our workforces and communities safe. It is hard to imagine a topic more salient given the safety risks we face with COVID-19, challenges from more extreme weather and fire behavior, and expanding human exposures, not to mention the cumulative consequences of these issues to physical and mental/behavioral health.  

Almost 15 years ago, IAWF initiated the Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference to address the social, political, economic, psychological and cultural aspects of dealing with wildland fire in our communities, across our landscapes and within fire management. We know that addressing human dimensions is essential to finding enduring solutions to the challenges we face. In 2015, the IAWF brought these conferences together to capitalize on obvious synergies. This year, we expand on this tradition, but with a twist; we are adapting to the moment by going virtual so we can reach more of our community all over the globe with keynote talks, international panel discussions, deep dive workshops and more.

For this conference, IAWF places great emphasis on COVID-19 and the pervasive impacts the disease has had on all aspects of wildland fire and our professional communities around the world. Every country, region, state, province or locality has had to contend with the virus and its impacts in diverse ways. Our conference will showcase different responses, approaches and lessons learned to enhance learning for our entire community as we prepare to live in a world with endemic virus risks. And while COVID and its lessons will be front and center, that is not all we will address. 

Here are some topics you will find if you join us to in our virtual community: 

  • Wildland firefighter psychological behavioral health and tools to address these important issues 
  • How to improve communication and information flow and learning under highly dynamic conditions
  • Strategies for promoting greater wildland fire use, prescribed fire and creating a new generation of prescribed fire managers
  • Solutions and approaches for dealing with complexity, uncertainty and risk
  • Minimizing operational risk for firefighters
  • Leadership lessons, insights and practices
  • Organizational learning from accident, injury, and fatalities on wildfire incidents
  • Lessons learned from Indigenous fire approaches
  • Imagining different firefighting futures
  • Creative mitigation and adaptation strategies
  • Natural hazard planning processes and decision making
  • More effective strategies and tactics for wildland fire management
  • Evacuation decisions and risk perception
  • Changes to wildland fire policy, management and governance
  • Post-fire recovery
  • New technologies for firefighter and community safety.

In addition to the robust program schedule, we have planned for a variety of creative and interactive networking options, a virtual exhibition space to talk with the broader industry, and poster presentations. Our deep dive sessions will feature interactive workshops, breakout groups and opportunities for more participatory engagement. We very much look forward to seeing you there, wherever you are.