Welcome to the 8th International Wildland Fire Conference
Responding to the severe and globally widespread wildland fires seasons of the 1980’s, representatives of government entities and private institutions of all continents organized, in Boston, USA, the 1st International Wildland Fire Conference – “Meeting Global Wildland Fire Challenges”.
Near the turn of the century, the 2nd conference was hosted in Vancouver, Canada, dedicated to “Wildland Fire and Sustainable Development”, attended participants from 38 countries. Since then, every 4 years, a growing community gets together on a different continent to learn from each other and share knowledge and expertise under the scope of integrated fire management.
Prior conferences helped organizations and professionals from more than 70 nations to develop a common fire lexicon, doctrines, training manuals, techniques, and operational standards. We excelled on preventing, detecting, and extinguishing wildland fires, mastering a portfolio of technological solutions.
Through time, the political and physical systems that we are part of, tackled mostly the consequences (suppressing fire) instead of addressing the root causes (human activity and how it uses the land). The reinforcement of suppression, without investing in fuel management, is a quick fix, that escalates the problem to a higher level. This firefighting trap or Fire Paradox, in a global warmer and drier environment, is exposing different biotas and communities to severe fires, wildfires, bushfires, forest, vegetation, landscape and rural fires as they are named from north to south, west to east.
In the last decade, extreme fire events destroyed lives, buildings and natural habitats, cornering and puzzling politicians, institutional leaderships, and professionals. In 2017, wildfires tragically challenged Portuguese society. Since then, all our efforts converged into integrated fire management this is no longer a niche or a subject for a few wildland firefighters or landscape planners.
It is all about reaching out to other communities of practice, economic sectors, and local and indigenous people. As fire management becomes a complex socio-ecological issue, it demands robust institutions, transparent and accountable procedures, and permanent communication with key stakeholders. It also demands a balanced budget between fuel treatment and suppression, in a set of cohesive policies. This means dismantling a culture of silos, promoting inter-departmental dialogue, avoiding unintended consequences from cross cutting public policies (agriculture, forestry, energy, development, environment, fiscal and others. In Portugal, we are also aiming at engaging different audiences, at different geographies and levels of authority and have their commitment, prevailing in time.
Following-up the recommendations of the 7th International Wildland Fire Conference, which was hosted by Brazil in 2019 and addressed the theme “Facing Fire in a Changing World: Reducing Vulnerability of People and Landscapes by Integrated Fire Management”, we are now challenged to put words into action.
Better wildland fire governance is needed to protect biodiversity, foster carbon sequestration and healthy forests and assure they are providing goods and services that do not vanish in wildfire smoke.
As Chairman and on behalf of the Organizing Committee of the 8th International Wildland Fire Conference we invite you to come to Portugal with your knowledge, insights, and thoughts. We welcome you to contribute with your institutional or professional case study, your scientific work or your operational success or failure in tackling complexity and uncertainty when governing or managing wildfire risk.
At Porto, you will have a lifetime influencing professional experience, through the opportunity to meet with thousands of people coming from all over the world. We all share similar problems and are deeply committed to work on the solutions.
We will be honoured to host you at Porto, to discuss and participate in defining Governance principles towards the development an international framework. We believe that your piece of the puzzle will matter to help your nation and all nations to be better prepared to deal with the challenges ahead of us and to build fire-resilient landscape and societies.
TIAGO MARTINS DE OLIVEIRA
Chairman of the AGIF Board of Directors