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Let’s talk fire: How to move Integrated Fire Management forward?

The last training of the Pyrolife project for its 15 Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) took place on the 19th-30th of September in the Netherlands. Pyrolife is an Innovative Training Network funded under the Marie Curie Programme (MSCA-ITN) which supports the PhD training and research of 15 candidates working on wildfire-related issues across different European countries, covering a wide array of disciplines from engineering to human geography and sociology.

The whole Pyrolife training program is designed and anchored upon the recognition of the urgent need for change in the way our (highly heterogeneous) societies manage, govern and relate to wildfires across the globe. The project takes up the imperative of building landscape resilience through a better understanding of fire drivers, risk, and impacts, as well as creative approaches to risk reduction that are sustainable in the long term.

Credit: Bethany Hannah

Following this logic, Pyrolife has designed and organized a series of trainings and workshops around the biophysical, human and governance dimensions of fire. And whereas covid-19 moved many of these trainings online, Pyrolife ESRs still managed to enjoy some in-person learning, both in Spain and Cyprus. The trainings culminated with a fourth and last workshop in the Netherlands, which aimed to bring all Pyrolife’s knowledge together through the concept of Integrated Fire Management.

In this vein, organizers posed a challenging, yet stimulating question to the participants: “How to move Integrated Fire Management forward?”. Participants were prompted to tackle the issue in two distinct ways; through a series of talks and discussions with top experts on different disciplines, and most importantly, through a group task, which was carried out jointly throughout the course duration. There were five groups, working on distinct yet connected topics, namely: (i) Applying the “multiple layers of safety” concept in fire engineering to landscape fires, (ii) Fire adaptation, mitigation and suffering, (iii) Learning from other disciplines, and (iv) Linking science and practice. Each group was asked to read a series of initial papers, and together with their coaches, start developing a position paper (or a similar scientific output) on the issue at hand. Also, each day before wrapping up, every group would update the plenum on their progress and struggles, so that others could also provide insights to enrich their work.

Credit: Bethany Hannah

There was also a fifth group, which thanks to the acquisition of some seed funding, allowed for the participation of five African scholars. Their task was slightly different: To set an agenda of potential collaboration topics between African and European researchers and imagine how such a collaboration would look like. These intercontinental discussions proved fruitful and helped to further introduce concepts that are often forgotten or not sufficiently considered in our conversations, such as race, power dynamics and colonial aspects in governance and knowledge exchange programs, among others.

You might be asking: What was the conclusion? Well, the results are still in the making. As they say: good science takes time. But collaborations continue online, and the idea is that they will result in published scientific outputs in the not-so-distant future. So please stay tuned! And if you would like to join us for our next in-person meeting, you can already Save the Date: from the 14th to the 16th of March 2023, we will have our Pyrolife Final Conference in Barcelona.

Credit: Bethany Hannah


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