“Do we have an international wildfire problem that needs an international solution?” This was the question posed to a group of diverse wildfire stakeholders from across the globe at a virtual International Wildfire Workshop, hosted by NFPA in July. This event was a continuation of a June, 2019, workshop with the goal of having discussions about collaborative funding efforts to fulfill global wildfire research needs and how this group can work with NFPA Applied Research and the Fire Protection Research Foundation to collectively identify project needs and funding sources for future work.
The virtual conversation was just the beginning of what promises to be a productive working group that will engage and support future collaboration on research around wildfire science, mitigation and outreach. Although, years ago, destructive wildfires were primarily localized to fire-prone landscapes, this is no longer the case. With the warming climate, communities in Sweden, Greenland, Siberia, among others, are experiencing wildfires where history has shown they were essentially non-existent in the past. Other places, like Northern Europe and Latin America are seeing an increase in wildfires and their impacts.
Destructive and unwanted fires in the landscape are no longer a localized issue, but a global one in need of an international solution. Too often we fail to look outside of our own community, state/province, or even country for solutions to our wildfire challenges. It’s time that we not only learn from others around the world, but we work together to holistically address the vast array of research gaps for wildfire safety.
NFPA’s virtual workshop gathered a diverse group of participants providing their wildfire insight from various organizations and agencies in Chile, Lebanon, South Africa, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
A few key themes emerged from these discussions as potential research gaps that could be pursued collectively as a group, including:
- Establishing the common principles of data collection for wildfire and developing a standard and simple means of collecting and analyzing data about fire risk, behavior, and impact;
- Exploring Fire Danger Rating Systems and its use for identifying present fire risk along with long term infrastructure planning;
- Expanding social research, particularly in developing/third world countries;
- Identifying the total cost of fire and social equity; and
- Developing a means of transferring research to practice in developing countries.
Wildfires are one of the greatest challenges of our time. Bringing great minds and organizations together with diverse perspectives to holistically confront the global wildfire challenge is an essential next step.
Photo Credit: Vaccarisses, Catalonia, Spain, 2018. Lucian Deaton, NFPA