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Thematic study on wildland fires

The study complements FRA 2005 through greater depth of data and information on the incidence, impact and management of forest fires and related issues in different regions around the globe.

The study assesses the fire situation in each region, including the extent of forest area affected, number and types of fires and the causes. In recognition that not all fires are destructive, given that some ecosystems need fire-induced regeneration, both positive and negative social, economic and environmental impacts are outlined. An integrated approach to wildland fire management addresses: prediction, preparedness and prevention as key elements in the reduction of the negative impacts of fire; rapid response in extinguishing fires; and restoration after the fact. These elements constitute the rationale for voluntary guidelines for wildland fire management, which are currently being drafted.

The thematic study also addresses key issues in the institutional aspects of wildland fire management, including the roles and responsibilities of diverse stakeholders and their capacities and capabilities for prevention and suppression – particularly the role of community-based fire management. Based on these issues, a global strategy is being prepared for enhancing collaboration at international, regional, national and subnational levels in order to implement the voluntary guidelines.

Selected findings of the thematic report include:

• Some 80 to 90 percent of wildland fires are caused by human activities, primarily through the uncontrolled use of fire for: clearing forest and woodland for agriculture, maintaining grasslands for livestock management, extraction of NWFPs, industrial development, resettlement, hunting and arson. Thus proactive fire management must involve all these stakeholders.

• Legislation and expensive equipment alone are insufficient to prevent and suppress wildland fires. Given that their livelihoods are at stake, local communities and populations need to be actively involved in fire prevention and suppression.

• It is not only the biological and physiological effects of fire that must be understood in fire management strategies, but also the underlying socio-economic and cultural reasons for the use of fire, including poverty, food security and livelihood issues.

• Data on both destructive and beneficial fires are needed, including their overall economic and ecological impacts.

• To prevent and respond to fire emergencies, greater collaboration and agreement are increasingly required at international, regional, national and subnational levels.

Fire management global assessment 2006

A thematic study prepared in the framework of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005

FAO Forestry paper 151

Fire management site: www.fao.org/forestry/site/fire-alerts/

last updated:  Friday, March 9, 2007