The Korea Herald


Wildland fire forum to kick off in Pyeongchang

By 정주원

Published : Sept. 29, 2015 - 17:40

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The world’s leading authorities in nature, forest and culture will kick off the sixth International Wildland Fire Conference next month, the South Korean forest agency said Tuesday.

With the theme “Fire of the Past, Fire in Future,” the international fire summit will run from Oct. 12-16 in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, to discuss ways to protect natural and cultural heritage from fire.

The five-day event will also address international cooperation for a cohesive global fire management strategy. 

A helicopter fights a fire in a mountainous region. (KFS) A helicopter fights a fire in a mountainous region. (KFS)

This year’s IWFC will be hosted by the Korea Forest Service and Gangwon Provincial Government.

“Wildland fires have been increasingly frequent around the world, due to the rising world population, the rapidly changing ways of land use and climate change,” a KFS official said.

“Wildland fires defy a single country’s efforts -- they require joint efforts from international society.”

The IWFC will consist of conferences, visits to sites struck by fire and those undergoing restoration, exhibitions and firefighting demonstrations.

About 2,000 participants from 88 countries, including forest and environment ministers, policymakers, researchers, scholars, international organizations and nongovernment organizations, will share their knowledge and experience of fire management methodology and team up to tighten international cooperation for sustainable use of the world’s environment.

Top experts from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Global Fire Monitoring Center, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Tropical Timber Organization, will play leading roles in the panel discussions, plenary sessions and related subconferences.

This year’s topics also encompass an agenda on fire and disaster management, such as the modeling of past, current and future fire regimes, fire ecology; fire, human health and security; fire-atmosphere-climate interactions; adapting forest management, climate change and community-based fire management.

The event will also address land and fire management policies; disaster and security management strategies; advanced fire management tools and international cooperation in fire management.

KFS officials participate in a rural community’s controlled burning of farmland in an effort to prevent forest fires. (KFS) KFS officials participate in a rural community’s controlled burning of farmland in an effort to prevent forest fires. (KFS)

This is the first time that the IWFC will be held in an Asian country. Since its launch in 1989 in Boston, the IWFC has been held every four years, with host countries being Canada, Australia, Spain and South Africa.

This year’s IWFC also puts strong emphasis on innovation in fire management. In addition to world-class experts’ knowledge, the international big-event will present state-of-the-art technologies on fire security systems and solutions, offering ample opportunities for exporters and buyers around the globe.

As a representative of South Korea’s leading expertise of 40 years in afforestation and firefighting know-how, it will introduce the latest applications of information and communications technology for real-time fire controls.

Margareta Wahlstrom, first special representative of the secretary-general for U.N. Disaster Risk Reduction and the head of UNISDR, has stepped up as this year’s special speaker. Wahlstrom has gained world recognition for her extensive experience in both disaster relief operations and disaster risk management, with the United Nations system and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Eleven keynote speakers will share their expertise on the legacy of fire, community and wild-land fire and cohesive global fire management strategy.

Stephen J. Pyne, regent’s professor of Arizona State University School of Life Sciences and Winston S.W. Trollope, research adviser on fire in South Africa, will speak on the impact fires have had around the globe.

Lectures on community and wild-land fires will be given by Sarah McCaffrey, research social scientist of the Northern Research Station for the USDA Forest Service, and Pieter van Lierop, forestry officer of FAO.

Lectures on cohesive global fire management will be given by Tom Harbour, director of the U.S. Forest Service’s Fire and Aviation Management section, and Johann Georg Goldammer, director of Global Fire Monitoring Center.

Regarding innovation and firefighting, Rob Rogers, deputy commissioner of New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Ko Ki-yeon, director of KRS Forest Fire Prevention and Control Division, and Domingos Viegas, professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of Coimbra, Portugal, will lecture on technological applications in wildland fire management.

Joseph Kreidi, senior program officer of culture at the UNESCO office in Beirut, and Ven. Sukwoon, deputy director of department of cultural affairs at the administrative headquarters of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, will deliver lectures on the protection of natural and cultural heritage.

“As the first Asian host for the IWFC, we will make our utmost effort to raise Korea’s presence in Asia’s wild-land firefighting network,” said KFS Minister Shin Won-sop.

“Until the IWFC, we will make final preparations in cooperation with experts and related institutions to make this event a great success,” the minister added.

By Chung Joo-won (