4 2018

By Alen Slijepcevic

We are living in a time where fire management has become a topic for public discussion more than ever in our lifetimes. We have witnessed for the second year in a row, large and deadly fires in California and across western United States. This year also has seen deaths in Greece, large forest fires in Sweden within the Arctic circle, and across the United Kingdom and Germany. As we enter an already hot and dry summer in northeast Australia and a potentially hot summer in southeast Australia, all indications are that we will see a significant fire season.

The fire issues are very complex and we as fire and land managers are under constant public scrutiny. Misguided policies and lack of foresight have led to the current situation where we are underprepared for climate change. The fire problems ahead are so large and complex that no country on its own will be able to deal with them. We are all constrained by the political environments such as short-term thinking driven by the election cycles, ongoing debates in some jurisdictions on whether climate change is real or not (although the scientific evidence is irrefutable) and similar distracting discussions. There are also constraints in thinking within the fire community imposed by lack of diversity within organizations and agencies. We need to engage all voices and communities in the solutions.

To deal with this complex problem, it is more than ever important to work jointly across all fields of fire management. It is also fundamental that we work together across the jurisdictional boundaries. Although we like to think that we are different and that our problems are different than the problems of other jurisdictions, the reality is that we have more that connects us than points of difference.

This is always highlighted when we come together at international conferences, conduct study tours between jurisdictions, exchange staff on secondment (temporary) assignments, support each other with suppression, or work on joint research projects.

There have been great opportunities sharing some of the newest research – recently at the 8th International Conference on Forest Fire Research in Coimbra, Portugal, followed by stimulating presentations and discussions at the 15th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit and 5th Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, in December 2018.

Looking ahead, new research and operational practices and policies will be explored at the 6th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference in Albuquerque, USA; Sydney, Australia; and Marseille, France in April 2019, which will allow us to explore problems and solutions across three continents.

In a further effort to bring us closer together in thoughts and deeds, the IAWF Board is working on a number of discussion papers that will be published early in 2019. It will be very important to hear opinions of a wide wildland fire community in teasing out what are the important issues and what are we doing in different parts of the globe to overcome them.

Just as we’re working to gather a range of voices and insights for the discussion papers, we are always looking for articles to be published in the Wildfire Magazine. Articles that focus on the work we do on the fire ground, and that demonstrate best practices, and that don’t shy away from the fire issues of our time. Now, we are also looking for articles that are written in languages other than English. So, if you have an idea, please contact the Managing Editor Ron Steffens and discuss it with him.