Pilot Project Planning for Fire Suppression Mobilization
in Riau and South Sumatra Provinces
(IFFN No. 21 – September 1999,p. 57-59)
The United States East Asia and Pacific Environmental Initiative includes a component to assist the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) to strengthen fire management and fire suppression coordination capabilities within the region. Under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations Haze Technical Task Force (HTTF), fire suppression capability surveys were conducted in selected ASEAN countries and Indonesian provinces during the summer and fall of 1998. In collaboration with an Asian Development Bank Regional Technical Advisory Team (RETA), the United States Forest Service (USFS) took a catalytic role in initiating and coordinating this activity, providing USFS fire experts to work with the teams, and funding costs for Indonesian participants. Findings from this assessment identified strengthening fire suppression organizational structure and mobilization capacity within Indonesia as important issues. A conceptual mobilization plan framework was developed by the USFS and presented at the December, 1998, joint meeting of the Sumatra and Borneo Sub-Regional Fire Fighting Arrangement (SRFA). A pilot project to develop a prototype fire suppression mobilization plan for the provinces of Riau and South Sumatra was endorsed by the Sumatra SRFA. A USFS representative arrived in Southeast Asia on 24 February 1999, to collaborate with the RETA in laying the groundwork for the mobilization plan development activity. During 4 April to 6 May 1999, a team that included two USFS fire suppression technical advisors travelled within Riau and South Sumatra provinces to collect information necessary to develop a prototype mobilization plan of selected areas within the provinces. This information also served as an analytic tool for identifying strengths and weakness in the existing fire suppression mobilization system and developing recommendations for improvement.
Forest and land fire management issues in Indonesia are complex and controversial. The focus of this activity is fire suppression mobilization capacity in the event of unwanted fire or haze.
Objectives of the fire suppression mobilization plan activity were as follows:
Build capacity for developing fire suppression mobilization plans
Develop a nucleus prototype plan reflecting the existing fire suppression mobilization capacity for selected areas within Riau and South Sumatra provinces
Based on information collected during development of the prototype plan, analyze strengths and weaknesses of existing fire suppression mobilization system
Develop recommendations at a provincial level for improving fire suppression mobilization capacity.
An international and multi-agency team concept was determined as the best approach for this activity. The team roles were identified as follows: a leader from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops (Echelon III or IV), national fire experts from selected ASEAN countries, a local provincial fire expert from Dinas Kehutanan (Province Forestry Agency), a local provincial environmental expert from BAPEDALWIL/DA (Province Environmental Impact Agency), two USFS international fire specialists, and one translator/liaison officer. The team spent 2 1/2 weeks in Riau Province (5-22 April) and 1 1/2 weeks in South Sumatra Province (25 April – 6 May), travelling to selected locations to conduct interviews and visit sites. Individuals interviewed included government officials from a variety of agencies at all levels with responsibilities for fire management, military officials, forest concessionaires, private companies utilizing forested land, NGO representatives, village chiefs, and firefighters. The team visited emergency command centers and a variety of field sites, examined fire fighting equipment, and collected inventory lists, maps, cooperative agreements, and other pertinent documents. Only observable and verifiable, or reasonably conclusive information, was included in the prototype mobilization plan. The information provided the basis for identifying strengths and weaknesses of the existing system and developing recommendations.
Findings of the Fire Suppression Mobilization Team
Indonesia is recognizing the need to move from a fire protection system based on economic/livelihood interests, towards a system responsive to government determined priorities. This recognition is fuelled by global concerns of the health and economic impacts of episodic regional haze caused by forest and land fires.
For a variety of reasons, government agencies are not prepared to support forest and land fire suppression activities. The Ministry of Forestry (MOFEC) and the provincial Forestry Agency (Dinas) have minimal forest fire suppression capabilities and focus their limited resources on monitoring and reporting. The minimal fire suppression resources of the Civil Defense are focused on protecting human life and community. A province level mapping exercise, displaying areas covered by fire protection entities would reveal vast areas with either no identifiable responsible entity or identified responsible entities with inadequate suppression resources.
Seasonal haze is not perceived as a major problem by local people and is accepted as an episodic inconvenience that is simply endured. Among villagers, there is a lack of awareness of the adverse health impacts of haze and even less awareness of the implications of transboundary haze. Thus, the presence of seasonal haze is not considered a situation warranting fire suppression action. If a reduction in haze occurs as a result of fire suppression action, it is an incidental by-product and not an objective.
In the fire prone provinces of Indonesia, provincial government agencies are recognizing and grappling with the regional concerns over health and economic impacts of haze caused by forest and land fires in Indonesia. Among government agencies, the haze problem is recognized as a symptom of more fundamental and profound socio-economic issues of land management. These larger issues contribute to a general sense of powerlessness within government agencies to take effective suppression action. Attempts to move towards a fire suppression system responsive to government priorities are in the tentative stages.
Riau and South Sumatra provinces have potential to develop and implement effective fire suppression mobilization processes within existing structures and organizations. However, all available resources and coordination mechanisms are not recognized or utilized to the fullest extent possible.
The matrix below lists the components of an effective fire suppression system and, if relevant, the possible causes of unrealized potential for each, as noted in Riau and South Sumatra provinces.
Tab.1. Matrix list of components of an effective fire suppression system
X – major cause of unrealized potential
x – minor cause of unrealized potential
Changing land use, previous fire activity, institutional structures, the presence of donor country activities, and other factors may influence the progress of fire suppression mobilization planning between provinces.
Results of the Fire Suppression Mobilization Planning Activity
A significant outcome of this activity is a strengthened capacity of team members for developing mobilization plans. Initially the international fire specialists took a lead role describing the format and contents of a mobilization plan, identifying important entities to visit, and formulating interview questions. As the teams progressed, Indonesian team members took an increasingly active role in the plan development and ended up writing the entire prototype plan with minimal assistance. As information was collected, the team developed capacity for analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the existing fire suppression capability and developed recommendations for improvement.
The Indonesian team members in both Riau and South Sumatra initiated an environmental NGO and student group seminar to introduce the plan and forge collaborative relationships for fire suppression activities. The seminar participants were fully engaged and supportive of the intent. On the last day of the South Sumatra trip, the team leader initiated an interagency meeting to introduce the prototype plan and generate support for developing a comprehensive province-wide plan.
As the team met with various agencies, it became apparent that these agencies had not previously met together to discuss fire suppression issues and were unaware of resources that each could offer. The meetings provided a forum for dialogue around fire management issues and a better understanding of the role each might play in mobilizing to fight fire. Many previously unrecognized resources were identified as available and willing to become involved in fire suppression efforts. In some of these meetings, informal agreements were made for future collaborative training and sharing of information.
Developing prototype mobilization plans is one step in an on-going process to strengthen Indonesia’s capacity for fire suppression. Developing a comprehensive, province-wide mobilization plan, implementing the recommendations from the prototype plans, and working on areas of identified unrealized potential are logical next steps in the process.
Additional information or a copy of the final report entitled “Pilot Project Planning for Fire Suppression Mobilization in Riau and South Sumatra Provinces” can be obtained from Gary Man, United States Forest Service Asian and Pacific Program Manager (Tel: ++1-202 273-4740) or Deanne Shulman, Fire Management Specialist, United States Forest Service (Tel: ++1-760 376-3781). The final report includes prototype mobilization plans from both Riau and South Sumatra provinces.
Fire Management Specialist
Sequoia National Forest
United States Forest Service
Cannell Meadow Ranger District
P.O. Box 9
Kernville, California 93238