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Climatological risk: wildfires

Jesús San-Miguel-Ayanz, Emilio Chuvieco, John Handmer, Andy Moffat, Cristina Montiel-Molina, Leif Sandahl, Domingos Viegas

edited by: Karmen Poljanšek, Montserrat Marín Ferrer, Tom De Groeve, Ian Clark



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Conclusions and key messages. There is a vast amount of information on wildfires at local, regional and global scales. However, problems remain at different scales in terms of harmonising or standardising practices for the assessment and management of wildfire risk.
Resilience theory is providing a suitable framework by which to explain abrupt changes in socioecological systems. The importance of community participation and building social capital through collective learning and governance mechanisms has been highlighted as a required basis for building disaster resilience (Aldunce et al., 2015; Aldunce et al., 2016; Montiel and Kraus, 2010; O’Brien et al., 2010). Another relevant contribution of the resilience theory to fire risk mitigation is the capacity to anticipate, prepare and plan (Aldunce et al., 2015), which is one of the theoretical foundations of the concept of fire scenarios. In fact, understanding the role of fire on the landscape and the influence of landscape on fire regime is crucial for the resilience of territories to wildfire risk.
Cognitive hierarchy theory is also a strong theoretical foundation of social learning processes that may enable a reduction in ecological and social vulnerability to wildfire, particularly at the WUI (Galiana-Martín and Karlsson, 2012; O’Brien et al., 2010). Nowadays, one of the most important factors that affect wildfire impacts (and adds risk to humans) is the expansion of the WUI. Considering that the developments in fire policy, in terms of environmental politics, depend on the social construction of fire problems (Hajer, 2000), the social perception of fire risk and fire culture are crucial components by which to understand and enhance support for specific management strategies (Czaja and Cottrell, 2014). This is one of the bases of social prevention programmes for reducing unwanted ignitions, including the promotion of good practices of fire use (Montiel and Kraus, 2010).
The following recommendations would help to enhance fire risk management from local to global scales in relation to three aspects, namely partnership, knowledge and innovation.
Partnership ▹ Engaging the wildfire community with other involved groups in other areas of disaster management or emergency response in order to build on synergies and best practice methodologies.
Engage the lay public and land management sectors, as a unified and non-contradictory ‘voice’ is vital — confusion always leads to disinterest and failure of communication.
The exchange of research outputs, models, best practice and experience between countries should be encouraged through the continuation of existing international forums and other mechanisms (e.g. Marie Curie and Erasmus programmes in the EU); this is especially important for countries with less experience of wildfires to learn from those with more experience, particularly in the context of climate change.
Wildfire governance schemes are urgently needed in order to obtain consensus between the different stakeholders to create collective willingness and favour the effectiveness of wildfire management systems. It is important to identify the institutions/administrations that are relevant for the implementation of actions related to wildfire risk assessment/mitigation.
Cooperation between the competent authorities and rural communities for wildfire preparedness and damage mitigation should be enhanced through organisation assistance, equipment supply and training sessions for locals. Good governance in wildland fire management requires the conscious regulation of fire use practices and the establishment of an action protocol to arrange cooperation for pre-extinction measures and emergency responses between the different stakeholders. The wildfire community should engage with world-changing agencies such as the IPCC to ensure that its voice is heard, and that planning for the future takes wildfire risk fully into account. It may be that there are currently too many competing international wildfire bodies, which need to find ways of integrating together as individually they are too small. The IPCC is an example of what can be achieved using a good platform.
Knowledge ▹ Harmonisation or standardisation of practices for the assessment and management of wildfire risk across Europe or at global scale has merit. However, it is more important to reach a common scientific understanding and to facilitate individual countries to deploy such knowledge/ wisdom in the best way for the particular needs of the country.
It is necessary to identify if harmonisation is possible for all European countries, or if this would be appropriate only for countries with similar climatic conditions. The same approach should be considered worldwide.
When dealing with harmonisation/ standardisation, it is important to identify what needs to be harmonised. This is possible for example for the definition of wildfire and wildfire risk, information systems, actions to take for wildfire management, capacitation of resources, education and information messages during fire campaigns.
Social education and prevention programmes, which aim to increase knowledge of wildfires and to reduce unwanted ignitions, are essential where fire is a traditional land use and resource management tool.
Innovation ▹ Technical research is important but, using current knowledge to the fullest effect, effort must be put into engagement with politicians and senior decision- makers in order to ensure that wildfire management is given strategic support and is resourced appropriately.
Integrated fire management is an innovative concept to reduce damage and maximise the benefits of fire. It includes a combination of prevention and suppression strategies and techniques that integrate the use of technical fire and regulate traditional burning.
Fire scenarios are a new tool for integrating fire management and land use planning to reduce the vulnerability of territories and societies to wildfires. The concept of a fire scenario is useful when confronted with the need to coexist with fire but this requires an understanding of societal discourses and risk constructs at the landscape scale. This innovative approach to fire management provides arguments for adapting land use and forestry practices to the changing fire hazard.
[...]


In Science for disaster risk management 2017: knowing better and losing less, Vol. 28034 (2017), pp. 294-305 
Key: INRMM:14445352

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