In 1989, the International Wildland Fire Conferences (IWFCs) were launched as a platform for sharing knowledge and expertise in wildland (landscape) fire science, management, capacity building and policy development). The International Wildland Fire Conference (IWFC) “Meeting Wildland Fire Challenges: The People. The Land. The Resources” was held in 1989 in Boston, U.S.A., co-organized by agencies of the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico. The conference brought together more than 400 leaders of public and private organizations from around the world, to discuss issues, programs, and strategies to reduce serious wildland fire losses and to promote international cooperation in the decade of the 1990s and beyond. While the Conference originally was not entitled as “first” IWFC, the outcomes suggested a continuation of the international dialogue. The United Nations Disaster Relief Organization (UNDRO) – the predecessor arrangement of today’s UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is serving as secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and custodian of concerted international implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 – officially recognized the Boston conference as a contribution to the UN International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
It is most appropriate to quote the overview comments of Allan J. West, Deputy Chief, United States Forest Service, who served as Chair of the International Wildland Fire Conference in Boston in 1989. His statement provided the background and rationale for the first conference (West, 1990):
During the decade of the 1980s, wildland fires caused major loss of life, property and natural resources in Africa, North and South America, China, the Mediterranean, Australia, and parts of Europe. Expanding populations in areas of high fire risk and the accelerating demand for natural resources to supply basic human needs added a critical emphasis to this fire problem. Recognizing that the global nature of this problem required international attention, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Forestry Canada, the United States Department of the Interior, the Mexican Secretaria de Agricultura y Recursos Hidraulicos, the National Association of State Foresters, the United States Agency for International Development, and the National Fire Protection Association organized and sponsored the “Meeting Global Wildland Fire Challenges” conference in Boston, Massachusetts, 23-26 July 1989.
The conference focused on worldwide wildland fire problems and steps that can be taken by the international community to re verse the upward trend of wildland fire losses. The conference assessed the worldwide natural resource situation, examined the physical, biological, social, political, and economic issues of wildland fire management decision making. Several examples of successful international cooperation were highlighted and the key elements of successful international programs were discussed.
Highlights and results of the conference included:
-An “International Survey of Fire Managers” identified problems throughout the world, which limit or impede international cooperation in wildland fire management. Based on this information, a working forum was developed, and each conference participant had an opportunity to help develop an “Action Plan,” which would lead to enhanced international wildland fire cooperation.
-Almost 100 educational displays and exhibits presented the latest in technologies and information necessary for successful establishment of basic fire management programs.
-More than 400 leaders of public and private organizations from around the world were brought together to discuss issues, programs, and strategies to reduce serious wildland fire losses and to promote international cooperation in the decade of the 1990s and beyond.
-The United Nations Disaster Relief Organization officially recognized the conference as a “Pre-Decade” activity. It is important that wildfire be recognized as one of the natural disasters to be addressed during the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
Organigram of the Boston Conference – Following the ICS
The conference documentation has been reconstructed by scanning archive print materials:
A paper presented by the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) at the opening session of IWFC-7 (2019, Campo Grande, Brazil) provides the context and results of the follow-up conferences during the three decades between the Boson and the Campo Grande Conference: