Cathy Longley

NFPA looks at wildfire through a global lens

Blog Post created by Cathy Longley Employee on Jun 3, 2016

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NFPA's Lucien Deaton assesses wildland areas with local authorities in Chile.

 

Last year at Conference & Expo (C&E), NFPA's President Jim Pauley spoke about the organization's quest to share information and knowledge with our stakeholders in a variety of ways. One area that Pauley touched on, and that NFPA has been working hard to deliver on during the eleven months since our annual meeting, is expanding the association's global reach.

 

Members of NFPA's leadership team, business development group, international division and training department have traveled to different countries and continents in recent months listening to our stakeholders, discussing best practices, introducing resources, and forging invaluable partnerships that will make our world safer from fire. One team in particular, NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division, has made a concerted effort to share and gain knowledge, globally, by meeting with fire officials, researchers, private industry, government agencies, and community groups dedicated to fighting wildfire in South Africa, Chile, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Lebanon and Spain. These wildland/urban interface (WUI) conversations and collaborations, extend beyond the fire, building and life safety expertise that NFPA has been offering to stakeholders in Latin America, Abu Dhabi, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Sweden, Mumbai, Oman, Prague and Melbourne during recent months.

 

Lucien Deaton, NFPA Wildland Fire Operations Division project manager, says that each global market has their own unique set of wildfire challenges and that each nation he has visited considers NFPA the go-to-resource for international fire prevention resources. He recently traveled to Chile and South Africa to talk about wildfire concerns and to look at data that is being collected that might help with wildfire safety efforts. Deaton also toured wildland/urban interface (WUI) settings with members of the National Fire Service in Chile, and met with officials in Santiago and Concepcion regarding the effects of climate change, urbanization and land use. According to Deaton, the region also has a unique problem in that 98% of their wildfires are a result of arson due to youths and others deliberately setting fires for various reasons. Often, children will set fires so that they can see firefighting helicopters responding.

 

One of NFPA's partners is working in Chile on wildfire training and wildland mitigation job creation. Working on Fire (WoF) recruits disadvantaged residents and, after extensive training, hires them as wildland firefighters for response activities. WofF currently trains more than 1,200 firefighters a year for fire response. During the recent visit to the region, NFPA team members shared the value of NFPA 1051, the Standard for Wildland Firefighting Personnel Professional Qualifications and other wildfire resources with different audiences.

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Ten years ago, WoF and its Kishugu non-profit organization in South Africa adopted NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program as an addition to its program in South Africa. The objective is to get neighborhood volunteers to take steps to reduce the risk of wildfire in their communities, such as clearing excess fuels from the landscape, maintaining defensible space around homes, and using fire-resistant building materials. NFPA signed a formal memorandum of understanding with Kishugu, and works closely with them so that mitigation messaging can be shared in other global markets.

 

south africa workers.jpgNew housing in Chile being built very close to the fire line.

South Africa was another one of the stops on NFPA's international wildfire tour. No matter where you are in the nation, wildfire and unemployment are persistent; and in response to these problems, WoF has 5,000 participants stationed at 200 bases across South Africa today.  Additionally, South Africa is looking to prioritize wildfire education among 6th and 7th graders, covering the topic as part of its climate change curriculum. NFPA also met with government agency staff in the Western Cape region to learn about their interest in taking proactive steps to advocate for internal fire prevention strategies including smoke alarms and sprinklers.

A South African Firewise Community in Sir Lowry's Pass works on a garden.

 

As promised at C&E last July, NFPA  has made stakeholder support, data analytics and global reach a priority. By cultivating wildfire partnerships, spearheading mitigation efforts and sharing educational resources, NFPA is helping to save lives and reduce loss with information, knowledge and passion across the globe.

 

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