Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Wildfire Developments

There have been several developments relating to wildfire in recent months that I have been involved with.

Housing & Moorland
The Wildfire 2013 conference was held in Cardiff in October and this followed a familiar pattern. There was a wide range of presentations covering research everything from research through equipment to best practice. The South Wales Fire & Rescue Service hosted the meeting and organised the site visit. My memory of the site visit was the proximity of open hill ground to housing estates in the Welsh valleys to the north of Cardiff. It is no wonder that they have a significant wildfire problem.

The Wildfire Operational Guidance was launched by ACO Robert Scott the Chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum.  This was the culmination of an enormous amount of heard work Northumberland FRS who produced the guidance for the Scottish FRS.  The guidance is primarily aimed at the Fire & Rescue Services, but there is much good information in it for everyone.  It is likely to be adopted throughout the UK and it marks a significant step forward in raising our ability to manage wildfire and it is available to download from the Scottish Government website.

The Scottish wildfire Forum has been in the doldrums for a while, but the formation of the single Scottish Fire & Rescue Service on 1 April, this year has provided the catalyst to review the work of the Forum.  As a result of this, the Forum was relaunched on 21st September and is now building momentum.

Uppermost in many minds in Scotland will be the events of April 2013 and the spate of wildfires that affected the north-west of Scotland.  Discussions are being held about how the warning system can be improved so that periods of high fire risk can be identified in advance.  Such a system would have a double benefit: it would allow warnings to be issued to the owners and managers of land in advance, and it would also allow the FRS to make preparations by moving manpower and equipment into high risk areas.  A Fire Danger Rating (FDR) system is envisaged and the Met Office is involved in developing proposals.

As Vice-Chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum I have been involved in the discussions of the FDR and also developing stronger links to government in England and Wales so that they have a better understanding of the risk posed by wildfire and the capability of the wildfire forum to assist in raising awareness and developing the best techniques for reducing the risk of damage from wildfire.