I was in Barcelona on Monday 11 February to participate in the EFIMED event Facing Forest Fires with EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides. The Commissioner explained his rescEU plan aiming at improving the European system to tackle natural disasters in more detail. Immediately, my earlier thoughts on this plan came back to mind: I still think rescEU might have the wrong focus, and we should allocate resources towards wildfire prevention rather than fire suppression.
Stylianides’ speech was followed by four contributions from science, practice and also the policy level. They all had a clear message, that coincides with our European Forest Risk Facility‘s vision (resilient landscapes – adapted communities – adequate response): Instead of more fire fighting aircraft (which is part of rescEU) emphasize must be given to landscape- and forest management, i.e. managing the fuel load, fuel availability, and fuel characteristics to enable safe and effective fire management. Often, this fuel management is addressed through the use of prescribed fire, especially in the Mediterranean.To prevent misunderstandings, I have to state that in Central- and Eastern Europe prescribed fire can only be one tool of many, as our ecosystems and soils are not everywhere naturally adapted to prescribed fire. However, as we are sitting in Barcelona, the blog post EXPOSING OF THE DEADLY AND DANGEROUS WILDLAND FIRE EXCLUSIONIST written by Ed Komarek, author of the book “Fire in Nature” reached us. Interestingly, that post is calling for something that really reminds us of the vision and mission of the European Forest Risk Facility:
“So where do we go from here? I really think that to some extent we have been putting the cart before the horse in our overall global prescribed fire network building. We got folks like Johann (Goldammer) working at the highest levels of world governments and those of us working up from the grass roots. But it seems to me that what we really need is to take another page from Dad’s (Ed Komarek senior) playbook and work to build a multi-million dollar institutional vehicle to drive global prescribed fire science and management. Such an institution would not only work with governments but support and fund grassroots global initiatives in fire science, education and reasonable prescribed fire regulations and laws, to get fire back into nature in all countries and regions.” (Ed Komarek junior)
Note: Ed Komarek senior was a founder of the Tall Timbers TT Research Station. And one of our next SURE project Exchange of Experts (EoE Forest) to Portugal is also supported by TT experts. What a small (fire) world – and how many opportunities for future (global) cooperation.
Further reading: This is a very interesting, and motivating, blog post from the “Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network”. With some minor adaptions (land use change for instance), this article refers not only to the US but to Europe just as well! Read it, and please consider that, in Europe, prescribed fire is only one tool in the land- and fuel management toolbox.