The future of wildfires: the challenge of speaking the same language

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Despite the great advances that have been made in recent years by all the actors involved in wildfires, many of the great management techniques fight against the fire used so far is getting obsolete. The Forum wanted to address this improvement by interlacing different knowledge (researchers, territory managers, emergency managers …) to create synergies in order to find a common solution. Bushfires are a problem that concerns us all, from science to society, and it is a challenge that is not reduced locally but is also globally.

The Forum was attended by more than 80 people where they were able to listen to a total of 34 presentations supported by different disciplines and defended by 45 speakers from different parts of the world. The day was structured by thematic sessions, the same ones that occupy the different phases of the emergency cycle; from prevention, preparation, response and finally recovery. The main objective of the Forum On Catalan Wildfire Research was to find out where and why the stagnation that exists within all the gear around the fight against forest fires, which currently prevents control the type of fire that nature is showing us in the last years.

The meeting recalled how the progress of some can become the solution of others and vice versa, and therefore, there is a need among them to know each other. For this reason, the Forum wanted to emphasize the urgency of establishing relationships and that these generate contributions towards a common cause: to avoid as much as possible that fires win the battle and thus avoid valuable natural and human losses.

                                                              8 KEY POINTS OF  THE FORUM 

Point 1: Exchanging knowledge

The efficient exchange of knowledge could help address the uncertainty that is emerging due to climate change, ecosystems and fire behavior. In fact, there are already initiatives that encourage contact between them and provide opportunities for collaboration between actors interested in Wildfires. These are some platforms that encourage the exchange of knowledge:

Point 2: Willingness to work together

The lack of current communication was confirmed, to a greater or lesser extent, among the main actors of the wildfire community and at the same time the clear will to work together was reaffirmed; of researchers with society and media.

In the room, the drafting of a strategic agenda was proposed with the key points on the trans-disciplinary research oriented to the final user from the initial stage; so that they can then effectively use it.

 Point 3: Experience vs. Science

Practitioners do not yet have enough evidence or tools to deal with the current fire behavior take most decisions on the ground based on experience. Therefore, research efforts must be focused on offering effective solutions for the circumstances that are currently taking place and offering the answers currently needed by managers to the current large and the intense wildfire, 5th and 6th generation, which we face.

Practitioners recognized that they prefer to continue using solutions based on experience, until science offers them a more valid solution. However, there is a predisposition to use science as soon as effective solutions are offered.

Point 4: Division of responsibilities

There is an urgency to effectively divide the responsibilities among all the actors involved. Otherwise, uncontrolled fire will make the decisions for us. It is a necessary challenge to motivate all those interested in being part of the solution and thus improve safety and reduce risks in all phases of the disaster management, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery cycle.

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Point 5: Towards an improvement of the current legislation

Some of the solutions that are necessary for fire prevention are outside current legislation. Finding a way to create the link between practitioners and researchers, will allow joining forces to pressure the relevant forces to change their management model. With this evidence changes are likely to occur.

Point 6: Contribute to data collection

The proposed solution is for scientists and practitioners to collaborate more with each other at an international level by transferring information that they have been accumulating throughout their career in order to be more efficient and faster. Practitioners should gather information about forest fires where they work to provide data to scientists to validate the results of their investigations.

Having then a common database of international forest fires that provides continuous records over time and space could greatly contribute to the research providing solutions to the current challenges of wildfires.

Point 7: Include end users in research

It must be borne in mind, that often the results of investigations are not yet available for use by end users (for example, emergency managers). That is why the business sector should play a fundamental role in improving collaboration between managers and researchers.

Point 8: Connecting with society

Reaching a more general public is a fact that recognizes that we must abide by both the research and practitioners. Although it is true, communication channels have been greatly improved thanks in part to the latest digital technologies. However, the messages are still not the most appropriate to find the necessary complicity of society.

Therefore, Social Sciences should be part of this gear to create the right message to reach a wider audience, and thus help connect society with wildfires. Society, experts and scientists have responsibilities to decide tomorrow’s future.

In fact, the European Commission already implements it in its RRI research policy, “Research Responsible and Innovation”, which involves the participation of social actors (researchers, citizens, policy makers, companies, third sector organizations, etc.).Thus, they work side by side throughout the entire research process, in order to better align the results with the values, needs and expectations of society.

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Autor: Pau Costa Foundation

La Fundación de Ecología del Fuego y Gestión de Incendios Pau Costa Alcubierre (PCF) tiene la ambición de ser una plataforma de información en gestión de los incendios forestales, a la vez que un instrumento de difusión e investigación en la ecología del fuego.

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