Michele Steinberg

Across the pond and around the globe, the need for community engagement in wildfire safety

Blog Post created by Michele Steinberg Employee on Nov 29, 2015

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I went to Korea last month to present with my colleague from the UK, Andy Elliott of the Dorset Fire Rescue Service in England. Last fall, I had the opportunity to visit the first Firewise community in England, which had been born out of efforts by Andy and his colleagues across the UK fire service after participating in the 5th International Wildland Fire Conference in South Africa in 2011. At that event, the notion of Community Based Fire Management (CBFiM) was presented, debated, discussed, and ultimately in some ways adopted or acted upon by many participants.

Fire Adapted Communities, Firewise principles and the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program fit well in the framework of CBFiM, a term coined by Sameer Karki at the Regional Community Forestry Training Centre (RECOFTC) in Bangkok in 2000. The concept involves, in a nutshell:

  • Local-scale fire management reliant on traditional or indigenous knowledge and conducted by local people.
  • Community involvement in fire management that involves a range of local actors.
  • Volunteers from the community conduct fire management on behalf of the community across private and public lands.

CBFiM looks a bit different from one country or region to the next, but it was clear that four years later, the need and call for community-based approaches is strong and growing. Based on his data and research, Andy and his UK colleagues know that more homes are at risk in suburban areas of Britain than ever before - which means homeowners need to be engaged. In his words, the country's experience is moving from "mildfires to wildfires." Both before and after we presented, we noted how many plenary and concurrent sessions on a variety of topics seemed to keep coming back to the need for community engagement and involvement. Talks by noted scholars and researchers such as Americans Stephen Pyne and Sarah McCaffrey made the message very clear. Below are just a few of the slides that illustrate the themes:

Indonesia

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West Africa

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Australia

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Outcomes