Wildland fire is a natural disaster affecting most nations of the world, and there is an increasing willingness to exchange information and work toward procedures that will benefit all wildland fire organizations. On a global basis, such cooperation can provide great mutual benefit for the agencies involved from both an operational and scientific basis.
The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a key public land agency of the US Department of the Interior, has become more active with international cooperation over the past several years. BLM manages over 265-million acres of public land in the western United States, and is responsible for wildland fire response on more than 355-million acres of Department of Interior lands. The major base for BLM is at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho.
During the late summer of 1997, BLM officials from the national office of Fire and Aviation at NIFC visited Germany, Russia and Norway to seek opportunities for research and cooperation. The trip provided a foundation for the BLM Fire and Aviation program to take advantage of opportunities where they best suit their long-range goals to learn from other nations and to share wildland fire expertise and enhance professionalism.
The American delegation spent time during the trip in Germany for briefings on international activities, and were given a tour of the Black Forest to look at the management and fire practices used there. As a result, some initial studies will be conducted in the US by students working on graduate studies in German universities.
The delegation travelled on to Russia and spent several days in Moscow working with Avialesookhrana (Aerial Forest Fire Protection Service) officials, then visited remote locations in central Siberia to observe Russian fire fighting equipment and procedures. They participated in meetings with a number of government and academic officials to learn about natural resource management and wildland fire issues in Russia.
As a result of the trip, an initial program of personnel exchanges was discussed, with potential for BLM smokejumpers to work in Russia during 1998, and Russian smokejumpers working in Idaho and Alaska in the US. BLM plans to use this process to gain additional technical information about Russian equipment and procedures to compare and contrast them with American systems.
Following the Russian visit, the members travelled to Oslo, Norway where the Norwegian Directorate for Fire and Explosion Prevention (DBE) provided the BLM group with a review of wildland fire issues in that nation, and hosted several meetings to exchange information about wildland fire. The series of meetings opened the possibility of future cooperation between Norway and the BLM in exchanges and possible studies.
BLM national officials are pleased with the positive results of this trip, and plan to use the results to help establish a long-term program of international cooperation and exchange.
From: David Vickery Chief, External Affairs Address: BLM Fire & Aviation National Interagency Fire Center 3833 S. Development Blvd. USA – Boise, Idaho 83705