Every four years, the International Wildland Fire Conference takes place at a different spot on the globe. Sponsored by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, several international wildfire and forestry groups, as well as the USDA Forest Service and similar entities and agencies in Australia, Canada, South Africa and Spain, the 2015 conference was hosted and organized by the Korean Forest Service and the Province of Gangwon. I had the great opportunity to attend the 2011 conference in South Africa, and to be able to present and participate in the 2015 event in Pyeongchang.
From the nation's capital in Seoul, travelers from around the world were transported 3-4 hours by bus to Pyeongchang and its alpine resort environment that will host the next Winter Olympics. Organizing committee members met participants at the main airports, ensuring we were safely on our way, and kindly posing for my photo (above) by saying not "cheese," but "kimchi!"
Upon arrival at the Alpensia Resort, the natural beauty of Korea's countryside was on display, and the national pride in hosting such a well-attended global gathering was evident. The welcome on the first day included an invigorating and humorous talk by the Gangwon provincial governor, who reminded participants that there is a very large difference between Pyeongchang and Pyeongyang. We were repeatedly exhorted to enjoy our time in Korea and to be sure to return for another prestigious international event there in February 2018.
As the week unfolded, I had the opportunity to learn, to network and to observe the values that Korea holds dear around the natural environment, cultural and historic resources, and the concepts of control of wildfire. Stay tuned for the next few blog posts about the common challenges we share around the world, and the unique nature of some wildfire problems among different countries and cultures.