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Currently Browsing: Wildland Fire

Educating the Next Generation of Wildland Fire Leaders

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Educating the Next Generation of Wildland Fire Leaders

The October/November 2009 issue of the Journal of Forestry included an article by Leda N. Kobziar et al discussing the challenges of educating the next generation of wildland fire leaders. Dr. Kobziar, who, incidentally, attended U.C. Berkeley as the student of one of my committee-members, the extraordinary Dr. Scott Stephens, writes that over the last few decades, the duties and skillset required of wildland fire has become much more complex, but the educational framework for developing and teaching future leaders has lagged behind.

Presently, it is very difficult to coordinate schedules and work to be able to get all the classes required for various certifications, particularly if one is already in school to begin with. Personally, it has been a struggle to maintain my Red Card and some certifications have lapsed because I couldn’t find time for complete required refreshers. Dr. Kobziar suggests a more streamlined approach, a fire professional development triangle comprised of training, education, and experience. I think encouraging a more formal blending formal education with practical fire experience is an excellant idea.

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Photo credit AMagill via Creative Commons

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Biodiversity up in Smoke

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Biodiversity up in Smoke

Conservation International reports that wildland fires in Madagascar are on the rise: September, October, and November saw a 8% spike in ignitions compared to the same period the year before.

Rhett A. Butler at WildMadagascar.org attributes the rise in ignitions to an especially dry year as well as continued illegal logging. Madagascar is known for its incredibly rich biodiversity. 70% of the species endemic to the island are found no where else on earth.

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Photo credit Jean-Louis Vandeviere via Creative Commons

Chart credit Mongobay.com

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Using social media to create a record of fire history

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Using social media to create a record of fire history

A group of students at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, have put together an interesting new tool aimed at creating a richer record of local fire history. Powered by GeoLive, the website uses google maps to create a map which users can modify, clipping in newspaper articles, events, and even first hand experiences of fire events. Given some of the data issues that with fire records in California from the middle of the last century, I wonder what this sort of site could do to allow researchers to learn more about fire history from firefighters and residents?

Photo: Rachel C. Smith 2003, All rights reserved.

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Today in Wildfire History: 1987 Black Dragon Fire kills 200 on the way to charring 18 million acres in China and Russia

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Today in Wildfire History: 1987 Black Dragon Fire kills 200 on the way to charring 18 million acres in China and Russia

The Black Dragon fire ignited in May of 1987 in China. Driven by parched conditions and high winds, the wildfire devoured land along both sides of the Amur river, blazing along the Sino-Soviet frontier. The Chinese mobilized two armies of regular troops and thousands of forestry workers to fight the blaze, according to the New York Times. Lacking sophisticated suppression tools, most of the 60,000 Chinese fighting the fire were armed with beaters. May 7th and 8th saw the worst days of the Black Dragon fire, as 200 in the path of the blaze perished and 250 were injured. By the end of the fire siege, 3 million acres of forest land had burned in China, totaling 1/3 of the Black Dragon forest reserve.

The Russian government opted to allow the wildfire to burn unchecked on their side of the border. Though in total the fire burned some 15 million acres of Russian timber, the Russian government predicted that they would not harvest in that area for at least a century, which would allow the forest ample time to regrow.

The wildfire was only finally contained in June, after extreme wind conditions subsided. In all, 18 million acres of forested land were charred in the fire.

Photo credit: Rachel C. Smith 2004 All rights reserved

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Today in Wildfire History: 1941 840 acre blaze in Japan claims the lives of 18 firefighters

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Today in Wildfire History: 1941 840 acre blaze in Japan claims the lives of 18 firefighters

Construction workers using fire to reduce weeds and leaf litter on a job site at Kure, in Western Honshu, Japan, on April 27, 1941. The fire escaped their control and burned rapidly through a field of dried weeds into a forested area beyond. Firefighters working on extinguishing the blaze were  trapped and overrun by flames when the wind shifted. 18 firefighters died that day. The fire burned for another day, eventually being contained at 840 acres.

Photo credit: Rachel C. Smith 2004 All rights reserved

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