Over the last couple of months I was able to attend two conferences held in the US and Canada that strengthened and developed new working relationships between fire fighters, foresters, researchers, insurance industry leaders, elected officials, educators, and first nations groups. These relationships foster the exchange of information about new technologies as well as revisiting old ways, including the use of prescribed fire by indigenous people to improve forest health and share resources that create communities that are safer from wildfire.
The theme of the 2019 Wildland Fire Canada Conference held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in mid-November was, “New Paths, New Partnerships.” Conference attendees had a friendly, open demeanor and were eager to help other organizations be successful in improving their program or research. Presentations covered research topics including studies about “stay and defend” concepts in the event of evacuations, new fire modeling technologies, and developing collaborative relationships.
As part of the collaborative relationships topics presented, I presented for NFPA about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in the US along with Laura Stewart, who coordinated the 2019 Canada's FireSmart Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. The conference also stressed the Canadian national wildfire management strategy. Its purpose is to develop good strategies to assess risk and create communities that are safer from wildfire.
Similarly, at the third annual conference presented by the International Association of Wildfire in October in Plymouth, Massachusetts, explored the U.S. National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. The theme was, “Defining Our Future With Wildland Fire – A New Paradigm.” Conference attendees came together eager to learn about developing research, community activities, risk assessments, as well as how they could share information and resources about wildfire and wildfire safety .
Tom Welle, from the NFPA, shared how public-private sector partnerships help change WUI resident behavior. Michele Steinberg, also with the NFPA, presented with Tracy Katelman, Executive Director of the California Fire Safe Council, about lessons learned in wildfire safety in a session titled: "Impacts of our Experience: Learning from California, the US and the World”. Also at the conference, over 125 participants attended an incredible field tour about the community and landscape work accomplished by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in partnership with the local fire department and first nations groups. It gave participants a good working understanding about how the national strategy was put into action.
These conferences stressed the important role each of us plays in creating communities that are safer from wildfire and how important new partnerships are in addressing the "new normal" of wildfire. A key component of both national strategies is to create neighborhoods and larger communities that are safer in the event of a wildfire. Check out NFPA’s Firewise USA site to learn how you and your neighborhood can take steps to reduce your risk of loss as part of developing fire adapted communities.
Photo Credit: Peace Tower, Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, Ontario. Faith Berry Nov. 2019