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Wildfire Diplomacy

in association with
Radix:  Radical Interpretations of and Solutions for Disasters

Wildfires Disaster Diplomacy
(Suggested by John Anderson.)

  • Kadry M. 1997. "Co-operation in the Mediterranean Area in Fire Disasters". Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters, vol. X, no. 2, pp. 67-75.


    This paper considers various aspects of co-operation in the Mediterranean area with regard to fire disasters. The importance of preparedness, education, and training is stressed: we should not wait passively for the next natural disaster to strike, but rather mobilize knowledge and technological know-how and give a positive response to the strong political interest and commitment to the inter community. A survey is made of the various organizations involved in the international response to disasters, with particular reference to the Mediterranean Club for Burns and Fire Disasters (MBC). It is possible to prevent many natural and all man-made disasters. The MBC has compiled a list of volunteer task forces willing to intervene in the event of a disaster. Efficient planning can always reduce the impact of a disaster.

    See also The Mediterranean Council for Burns and Fire Disasters.

  • 2 January 2004. Ilan Kelman writes:

             Some lessons have emerged from wildfire disaster diplomacy, although none have been investigated in detail. Other than the most obvious example to date, Southeast Asia Regional Haze, plenty cross-border cooperation occurs in fighting fires in Canada and the U.S.A. and in southern Europe. I also believe that Australia at times uses foreign resources.
             Of course, these other examples are not necessarily the direct disaster diplomacy we usually consider, because enemy states are not exactly involved. They do, though, refer to the wider impacts and characteristics of disaster diplomacy in terms of disaster management crossing international borders and the possible implications. For example, when firefighters from different countries work together, does that improve the performance of both through exchange of ideas and techniques? Does it lay the groundwork for more efficient cooperation in other disasters, such as the 1998 ice storm or the 2001 World Trade Center collapse? Are advantages gained in pre-disaster activities such as preparation, prevention, and mitigation?
             If anyone could provide a list of examples--not necessarily comprehensive, but indicative--where firefighters did cross borders to assist with wildfire, I would be happy to post that here. Perhaps examples other than those I have mentioned appear from Africa, South America, eastern Europe, or elsewhere.

  • 2 January 2004. John Anderson writes:

             Looking back, during Southeast Asia Regional Haze, J.P. Jeanrenaud, then head of forestry for WWF-International, was quoted in Canberra as stating that there needs to be an international firefighting force made up of fire professionals from many nations, equipped and trained as for war; capable of going anywhere, anytime, to stop the burning.
             Unless leading nations become pro-active before the next El Niño, another spokesperson will be repeating Jeanrenaud during another ugly burning incident in some part of the world ill-equipped to handle it. This, in the face of recent pronouncements by NASA's Dr. James E. Hansen that soots cause as much as a quarter of all observed global warming. Haze produced more CO2 in a few short months than all the coal-fired power plants of Europe for an entire year.
             Across several multi-billion dollar estimates of damages for Southeast Asia Regional Haze, I never saw an estimate capturing damages to human health. One anecdote, however, hit me: Should one have gone outside in one of the major southeast Asian cities afflicted by the haze during the worst of it, this would have been the equivalent of smoking ten packages of cigarettes per day.
             The ASEAN plan to act in concert for ensuing haze emergencies is the first such plan of its kind. UNEP is very proud. ASEAN's plan should act as a model for like responses in regions likely to be beset by such disasters. While the wildland fire community is heading a global movement to collaborate across borders (see, for example, the International Wildland Fire Summit and the Global Wildland Fire Network barriers remain.
             Significant East/West technology and capacity advantages will only be married when these barriers come down.

  • 6 January 2004. The Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) writes:

             Information on international cooperative approaches in wildland fire management is available on the following websites:

             The wildland fire community is heading towards a global movement to collaborate across borders supported by and in some cases regardless of government policies. The wildland fire community is working on international wildland fire partnerships steadily. In this endeavour old emotional barriers must be overcome to mutually take advantage of technologies and capacities of countries in the West and the East. The traditional top-down North-South “donor” relationships are being revised and replaced by partnership approaches.

  • Matthew S. Carroll, M.S., L.L. Higgins, P.J. Cohn, and J. Burchfield. 2006. "Community Wildfire Events as a Source of Social Conflict". Rural Sociology, vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 261-280.


    The literature notes that natural disasters, including wildfires, that damage human settlements often have the short-term effect of "bringing people together." Less recognized is the fact that such events can also generate social conflict at the local level. This study examines the specific sources of such social conflict during and after community wildfire events. Examining qualitative data generated from six case studies of wildfires in the American West, we suggest that integrating the theories of Weber, Giddens, and Habermas with community interaction theory provides a context for understanding such conflict. Rationalized forms of interaction and problem solving imposed by extra-local organizations during and after wildfire events are often resisted by local actors who are also inhibited from acting due to local capacity limitations. Thus, conflict occurs when social relations are disembedded by non-local entities, and there is a perceived loss of local agency.

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