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Wildland Fire & the WUI: International WildFire Management Conference Australia 2009

March 1, 2009

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issue of On Scene

IAFC On Scene: March 1, 2009

Each year wildland fires strike on nearly every continent, and each year they become increasingly more devastating. But as we fight these fires each year, valuable lessons are learned by firefighters about better ways to manage them.

Sydney, while one of the world’s most beautiful cities, is also in the heart one of the world’s most wildland-fire prone areas, and this year Sydney will host the International WildFire Management Conference Australia 2009 from June 18–20.

The conference is being jointly sponsored by the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Rural Fire Service Association and in association with the International Association of Fire Chiefs. It will bring together speakers from around the world to discuss key issues and problems facing wildland firefighters.

One of the key focuses of the conference will be on the challenges of global warming and climate change and how they have the potential to radically change how wildland firefighting agencies deal with fires and the communities they serve.

A keynote speaker for the conference will be Dr. Tim Flannery, one Australia’s leading experts in climate change, who’ll discuss its potential impact on fire fighting. Dr. Flannery is an internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist; he has published more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers. His books include the landmark works The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers.

Besides the effects of climate change on firefighting, the conference will look at how agencies can help their communities prepare for the impact of wildland fires, with a particular emphasis on educating communities to help themselves.

The conference program has been divided into three main streams: Technology and Research, a Safer Community and the Challenges We Face.

Within these streams, a range of papers will be presented by wildland fire professionals and researchers from Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Australasia. These papers will look at issues as diverse as the use of satellites and remote-sensing to monitor fuel build up and the course of fires, the use of prescribed burning, engagement with the community, incident management and disaster-recovery strategies.

The program has been designed to allow delegates to attend aspects of each stream so they’ll be able to choose from the topics that best fit their specific interests. There will also be other keynote speakers and plenary session that all conference delegates will be able to participate in.    

In recognition of the growing importance of the role played by community education in the prevention of wildland fires, the conference will also include the highly acclaimed Australasian Education and Fire Awareness Conference in 2009.

Additionally, it will incorporate an outstanding trade exhibition, with representatives from some of the world’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of firefighting equipment, products and services, and on display will be the latest in wildland firefighting technology and innovation.

The main conference sponsor is Erikson Aircranes, one of the world leaders in the provision of aerial firefighting equipment and services.    

Joint hosts of the conference are the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the Rural Fire Service Association. The NSW Rural Fire Service was formed in 1997 to coordinate wildland firefighting activities across New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state. The Rural Fire Service is now the world’s largest volunteer firefighting agency and protects some of the most fire-prone areas on the planet.

Today, the service comprises more than 2,000 volunteer rural fire brigades, has a membership of more than 71,000 unpaid volunteer firefighters and covers more than 95f NSW.

RFS volunteers not only are involved in fighting and preventing bush fires, but also attend structure fires, road accidents, search and rescue, and storm and flood recovery. RFS members come from all walks of life, they’re truly professional in their approach and training and they’re motivated by their dedication to help protect lives and property within their communities.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Association is a bipartisan, nonpolitical organization that represents the interest of the members of the NSW Rural Fire Service. The association has established itself as the conduit in ensuring the views of its members are taken into account in the decision-making process of the NSW Rural Fire Service.

One of the key elements of the Association is its structure, with representation drawn from across New South Wales. So much has been—and continues to be—achieved by the association, which highlights its members’ hard work and dedication—the cornerstone of its success.

Registrations for the International WildFire Management Conference Australia 2009 are now open, and we hope you’ll be able to join us in Sydney June 18–20 as we look at the challenges facing all of us and learn from each other how we can do our very best to meet them.

Asst. Commissioner Keith Harrap, AFSM, is the director of infrastructure services for the NSW Rural Fire Service. He serves as a member of the IAFC’s Wildland Fire Policy Committee.