Writen by Harrison Raine, PCF Volunteer
Forest health and wildfires, a concept so easy that it resonates with young school children. Mefitu, the educational mascot of Pau Costa Foundation for kids, was used to explain basic fire ecology, forest management, and the proper approaches to accounting for wildfires. During our day at the primary school in La Bisbal del Penedes, the children would hear from this colorful cartoon wolf and his friends about what it means to have flames in their forests. He would explain how the trees and plants needed fire and the cultural history of wildfire in the Mediterranean region, and then describe the current paradigms that have arisen with reliance on fire suppression as rural areas depopulated.
Following the cartoon video, the classroom was full of questions! All the children wanted to understand more about their environments, the history of the landscape, the animals within it, how fire worked, and the types of tools used by firefighters. To help them witness the mechanisms of wildfire prevention and fuels management, a live exercise was conducted using actual fire. The exercise represented two scenarios: a town with a managed community forest, and a town with overgrown vegetation.
The vegetation consisted of cardboard trees constructed by the children. Both scenarios had fire introduced to show the limitations of emergency responses, which was represented by a glass of water, and the impacts of proper fuels reduction. The children observed as the unmanaged forest burned rapidly and out of control, while the managed forest had almost no fire propagation. The children clearly enjoyed the fire, but still the point reached them: we must manage to protect our values!
After the exercise, it was to enter the landscape to see for ourselves. With a brief stop for lunch and to play, it was time to learn about ecology and wildfire management. The field section was split into three components: learning about emergency response from ADF (forest volunteer association), ecological mechanisms, and wildlife in the Mediterranean forest. During our field section, the forest was filled with children laughing and learning.
As wildfires continue to increase in prevalence in our world, it is crucial that we devote knowledge to the next generation. Paradigms around integrating wildfire management and preventing significant negative impacts must be addressed. One of the best ways to do this is through programs such as Mefitu, which exchange the knowledge at the most basic and important level: the children of our wildfire world.