The following information is taken from an introductory paper “Forest Fires in the Baltic Region: National and International Issues” presented at the Baltic Exercise for Fire Information and Resources Exchange (BALTEX FIRE 2000), Finland, June 2000. BALTEX FIRE 2000 had been convened under the auspices of the UN-ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire / Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), jointly with INSARAG Europe-Africa.
INSARAG with a new Wildland Focus
Until recently the mandate of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) of the United Nations has been restricted to the “classical” SAR cases such as saving lives after earthquakes. However, experience has shown that secondary effects of natural and technogenic disasters require additional specialist advice in conjunction with SAR response and other humanitarian aid missions. The INSARAG family offers an appropriate structure.
At the regional INSARAG Europe-Africa meeting in December 1999 (Germany) a first proposal was elaborated to establish an INSARAG Fire Group consisting of three subgroups:
Hazardous Materials (Hazmat)
At a meeting at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in January 2000 it was agreed that the original mandate of INSARAG which in addition to search and rescue would also cover wider aspects of disaster/emergency response. This could include a variety of natural and human-made disasters, including wildland fires. INSARAG would assist in strengthening UN-OCHA’s role by:
Governmental experts advisory support in case of a major emergency
Advisory experts to be provided out of the INSARAG family covering many fields of disaster relief
At the foundation meeting of INSARAG Fire it was recommended:
INSARAG-Fire is a global network of specialists in dealing with industrial fire, wildland fire and HAZMAT incidents affecting populations and the environment
INSARAG-Fire is organized in regional nodes
INSARAG-Fire has been initiated by a Starting Core Group of INSARAG Europe-Africa and will seek the establishment of Fire groups in the INSARAG Americas and Asia-Pacific regions.
Activation of involvement of existing international structures by calling on wildland fire expertise of international organizations and individuals already in place will be coordinated through the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) network
Encourage a continuous exchange of information through the Internet, initially utilizing the Global Fire Monitoring Center network
At the end of BALTEX FIRE 2000 the meeting of the FAO/ECE/ILO Fire Team further elaborate on the formation of the INSARAG Fire Group and particularly on the Subgroup Wildland Fire. The final format of INSARAG Wildland Fire will be submitted to the next INSARAG Europe Africa Regional Meeting (Tunisia, November 2000).
During its preparation phase the INSARAG Wildland Fire Subgroup already became operational in managing the large forest fire emergency in Ethiopia between February and April 2000. The coordination of a multinational fire fighting task force through the GFMC involved participation of Germany, South Africa, and Canada. The report is available at the GFMC website.