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Call for international collaboration at Wildfire conference

Tue, 10th May '11


International co-operation through the exchange of technology and trans-boundary partnerships can reduce the impact of wildfire, Jose Antonio Prada from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, said in his opening address at the 5th International Wildfire Conference underway in South Africa, Tuesday (10 May).


 “This conference can provide the forum for this collaboration,” he said, “The FAO is committed to working with interested partners to promote a strategy for international collaboration to reduce damage caused by wildfire worldwide,” he said.


Prada said new and more holistic approaches were needed to fight wildfire, especially the growing number of mega-fires that are becoming major issue as the effect of climate change is felt.


More than 700 wildland fire fighting experts from 73 nations are attending the wildfire conference taking place at Sun City near Johannesburg.  Top of the agenda is the impact climate change is having on the type and scale of fires seen across the world over the past decade.


The opening ceremony was a sea of yellow with 800 Working on Fire wildland fire fighters giving a spectacular display of African singing and dancing. European, Australian and American delegates admitted to be feeling overwhelmed at the spirit and enthusiasm of the South African wildland fire fighters who are drawn from the country’s poorest and most remote communities. 


Johann Georg Goldammer, director of the Global Fire Monitoring Centre in Freiburg, Germany, announced Wildfire 2011 would be link via video, to the Third Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, currently meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.


Three panellists from Wildfire 2011 would be in discussion with three senior policy makers in Geneva. The discussion, which would focus on the implications of wildfire in developing communities was to be broadcast to an estimated 2000 people in Geneva.  


Goldammer also read aloud the message from United Nations Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon in which he too asked for “a global spirit of co-operation.” 


Wildfire 2011, held in conjunction with the 3rd session of the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction, could galvanize efforts to reduce risk and vulnerability, Ban-Ki Moon said. 


Guy Preston, chair and national programme leader of South Africa’s National Resources Management Programmes, outlined how South Africa’s Working on Fire Programme grew out of the Working for Water programme after a wildfire killed team members removing alien vegetation. He said there were opportunities to fight shack fires in South Africa’s informal settlements using the same principles of early detection and quick response used by the forestry industry.