2 wildfire




We’re thrilled to feature some new writers in this issue, with insight into the wildland fire situation around the globe – in particular, the Scandinavian Peninsula, South Africa and Malaysia.

We asked our writers, and our enthusiastic IAWF board members, to provide overviews for 2023 – predictions, preparation, technology, research, and lessons learned that can be shared.

Our Situation Report section (pages 10 through 34), features stories from Canada, Greece, the Scandinavian Peninsula, South Africa, China, Malaysia, and Australia. In Canada (page 10), researchers are looking at the principles needed to understand and compare airtanker effectiveness – the size and concentration of a drop and what that drop will mean in context of the change in fire behavior. According to writers Colin MacFayden and Jacob Robinson, the research included a novel means to measure water drop patterns at high spatial resolution using infra-red scanning technology. One of the early results of this research will be the publication of the Reference Guide to the Drop Effectiveness of Skimmer and Rotary Wing Airtankers. According to MacFayden and Robinson, the guide will provide “a systematic and objective method for the relative comparison of the water drop effectiveness of both fixed- and rotary-wing airtankers commonly used in the North American boreal regions.”

After the challenging wildfire seasons in Greece in 2018 and 2021, that country increased prevention through a forest fuels treatment program, and suppression via arial resources. Although 500 promised new personnel have not yet been hired, and Greece is only beginning to consider prescribed fire, there’s progress.

Similarly, although there are applied fire programs in the Scandinavian Peninsula – Sweden and Norway –both countries are experiencing new challenges and anticipate intense wildland fire seasons (page 16).

In South Africa, according to writer Tessa Oliver, there have been more wildfires – and more intense wildfires – recently. Prescribed burning is necessary for fuel reduction and ecosystem maintenance (page 20), but there is a lack of experience and capacity to implement such a program.

China is similarly working to reduce the incidences of fire, particularly in subtropical China where most wildfire are human-ignited. But as writers Mingchun Shi, Cong Gao and Xinyan Huang explain (page 24), worsening fire weather that favors ignition and spread could render new restrictions on human ignition in vain.

In Malaysia, peat fires are not new, but there are new methods to control them. An award-winning invention sprays water on the surface while also flooding the underground fire. In parallel with the Peatland Fire Prevention Programme (page 28), and collaboration among stakeholders, the peat fire issue is being better managed.

Australian bushfire trends are concerning, according to writers and researchers Andy Ackland and Musa Kilinc. And although it’s important to make predictions, Ackland and Kilinc explain (page 30) a fire climatology analysis system that has been used since 2007 to assess property loss, fatalities, area burned, and weather patterns since 1900.

“The system reveals that all of Victoria’s worst bushfire seasons . . . followed a period of severe cumulative rainfall deficit commencing the autumn prior to the fire season,” the writers say. “Virtually all seasons with a January-to-October anomaly beyond -150 millimetres go on to have severe bushfires.”

Way down south, in the Falkland Islands (page 36), policy advisor Rob Gazzard details the development of a program to understand wildfire challenges. The Falkland Islands – an archipelago the size of Northern Ireland – is mostly covered in shallow and deep peat that stores millions of tonnes of carbon and has experienced an increasing number of wildfires because of drying from climate change.

The three remaining pieces in this issue – Michael DeGrosky’s Thoughts on Leadership column focusing on self-care (page 46), Bequi Livingston’s remarkable first-person account of her journey through post-traumatic stress after the Yarnell 19 (page 40), and Nicole Pepaj’s delightful twist on The Things They Carried (page 8), make for compelling reading no matter where you are, or what you carry.