PRESIDENT’S DESK. The IAWF was formed to promote a better understanding of wildland fire – and built on the belief that an understanding of this dynamic natural force is vital for natural resource management, firefighter safety and harmonious interaction between people and their environment. The Association is dedicated to communicating with the entire wildland fire community and providing global linkage for people with shared interest in wildland fire and comprehensive fire management, with a strong focus on wildfire research.
IAWF is concerned, our global membership is troubled and our partners around the world are apprehensive that in a time of need for improved focus and attention on key wildfire issues, we seem to be drifting in the opposite direction. Many are saying it’s “just politics.”
As you know, the IAWF has focused on this subject over the past year, working to bring more international attention to the problem of wildland fire and especially the wildland/urban interface. In 2012, our Board of Directors moved to add more wildfire education programs to our global training catalog by doing due diligence on how to better help spotlight this expanding global problem.
To that end, we looked back to the spring of 1992 and an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind event: the Global Conference, Symposium and Workshop that took place at the University of Montana in Missoula, USA. Many say this was the quintessential event that helped shape how the wildland/ urban interface fire issue has been dealt with for the past two decades.
Over 1,000 participants from the United States, Canada, Australia, South America and Europe came together to talk, share ideas and learn about the Power of Politics in dealing with this emerging wildland fire issue. The Conference, Symposium and Workshop explored what politics had to do with dealing with the media, politicians, agencies and the public within the context of the “wildland/urban interface.”
A multitude of groups and organizations sponsored this event, including the new upstart International Association of Wildland Fire. Other participants included the USDA Forest Service, Wildland Fire Research, NASA, United Nations, World Bank, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, National Fire Protection Association, The Congressional Fire Service Institute and the National Association of State Foresters, among others.
In designing and developing the 1992 event, the program committee engaged in new “out-of- the-box” concepts and approaches to training, including large group interaction and problem solving. It was not a conference of fire people talking to fire people. With one of the most impressive lineups of speakers, presenters, lecturers and debaters, this weeklong event provided a unique blending of individuals.
What else made the 1992 event so successful and unique? The newly formed National Fire Protection Association Wildland Fire Management Section sent out a survey to global wildland fire agency personnel. The purpose was to identify the key issues facing agencies and departments around the world. This information was utilized in fine-tuning programs and presentations.
Consequently, 21 years ago, this event kicked off a new era in cooperatively dealing with wildland fire and the wildland/urban interface. It spawned dozens of efforts, including programs like Fireready, Firesafe and Firewise; new efforts between fire service and wildland agencies; and new joint efforts with the insurance industry. For the first time, it actually brought homeowners, builders, planners, realtors and insurance professionals together.
As we kick off our 23rd year as the premier International Association dealing with wildland fire, we announce that the IAWF is adding the Power of Politics II WUI Conference to our list of events. You will be hearing more about this in the months to come. We hope this event will again strengthen IAWF’s global effort in bringing wildfire issues, including research, to the forefront of deliberations around the globe.