As the COVID-19 pandemic reached all parts of the globe earlier this year, necessitating strict social distancing and hygiene requirements, first responders were some of the first groups to have to rethink how to safely serve the public and achieve their missions. Among these groups are wildland firefighters, land managers, and others who work in wildfire around the world. As potential impacts became clear to the wildland fire management community, a team of researchers jumped into action to compile all the different types of strategies and advice in this arena, by reviewing existing materials and conducting a worldwide survey.
A collaborative effort spearheaded by Dr. Cathelijne Stoof of Wageningen University in the Netherlands along with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the American Wildfire Experience, and the International Association of Wildland Fire published the first in an expected series of briefs based on their review of materials and the global survey. Findings range from firefighter health and safety concerns to the issue of safely evacuating and temporarily housing residential populations, to the need to reduce wildfire starts through prevention activities.
Nearly 350 people filled out the survey in just over two weeks, with the majority (45%) from the United States but also representing 25 other nations. They represented a variety of jurisdictional levels and functions, though most worked at national or state/provincial agencies. Lessons learned already appear in the materials and survey, as wildfires have already necessitated management and response in Western Europe and North America.
The easy-to-read brief is free to access at Wageningen University’s website as a PDF document. The continuing study will issue more briefs over the coming weeks.