The man in charge of battling one of the biggest wildfires in California’s history will share his experiences with delegates from across the UK and Europe at the UK Wildfire Conference 2015 – Prevention Better Than Cure, hosted by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and with their partners in the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF).
Battalion Commander for CalFire, California, Greg Bertelli, is just one of a host of specialist speakers sharing their expertise at the conference, being held at the SFRS Training Centre at Cambuslang, Glasgow on 10 and 11 November 2015.
The SFRS is hosting the conference on behalf of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, the England & Wales Wildfire Forum and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association Wildfire Group.
Around 150 delegates will be attending the conference, including over 20 exhibitors and 34 confirmed speakers. Delegates are arriving from across the UK, Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Holland, Germany and Sweden to name but a few.
The conference is bringing together speakers, exhibitors and delegates to discuss wildfire issues and will provide an opportunity to share knowledge and experience. A range of wildfire prevention concepts and techniques will be presented and discussed.
The conference will also consider: different approaches to land management that can reduce the risk of damage from wildfires and current research into fuels, fire behaviour, fire management and prediction. The conference will also provide an opportunity for the first joint meeting to take place of the Scottish
Wildfire Forum with the England & Wales Wildfire Forum.
Michael Bruce, Vice-Chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, who has chaired the conference committee, said: “The conference will place an emphasis on planning for wildfire across all sectors. Fire and rescue services, other government agencies, communities, interest groups, and especially the owners and managers of the land - all have an important part to play in preparing for wildfire.
“We are delighted to be welcoming delegates from all over Europe who will hear inputs from some internationally renowned wildfire experts, such as Battalion Commander Bertelli.”
Battalion Commander Bertelli will speak about the Valley Fire in Northern California, which started on September 12th 2015, destroying over 1,200 homes and killing four people.
Conference delegates will also hear from Grant Pearce, a senior wildfire scientist with the Scion Rural Fire Research Group from New Zealand, who will speak about adaptation and integration of the Canadian Fire Danger Rating System into Wildfire Prevention Activities in New Zealand.
Other topics discussed over the two days will range from the use of complex computer modelling to the use of prescribed burning (muirburn), grazing and cutting by land managers which can all play a part in reducing fuel loads and providing firebreaks to help control wildfires, reducing fire intensity and bringing fires within the “threshold of control”.
The Chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF), Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Andy Coueslant, said: “We are no stranger to the effects of wildfire here in Scotland. The title of the conference illustrates our renewed focus on tackling the threat in advance of the wildfire and finding ways to make our landscapes more resilient.
“Also, we must make sure that we can avoid or cope with the worst case scenario – the threat of multiple, landscape-scale, high intensity wildfires that extend over long periods through smouldering in organic soils.”
The England & Wales Wildfire Forum has played an active part in organising the conference, and Simon Thorp, the Vice-Chairman said: “The conference is an important opportunity for the UK Fire & Rescue Services to meet other stakeholders.
“The conference will provide an opportunity to develop a better understanding between the wide-range of interest groups that are attending. The result will be an increased ability to plan for wildfire, which is a much more effective way of combatting the threat than waiting to react to wildfire incidents.”
Jim Dewar, Head of Policy at Forestry Commission Scotland said: “We recognise the value of working collaboratively with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and in conjunction with other landowners in Scotland, to reduce the incidence and effects of wildfires in Scotland.
“This conference is the perfect opportunity to review our understanding of wildfires and identify new techniques that will help avoid wildfires damaging our forests, woodlands and associated habitats.”
David Johnstone, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates said: “The prevention of wildfires in Scotland has never been higher on the agenda for land managers.
“Increasing access to the countryside for leisure coupled with dry weather and an increased fuel load has increased the danger of fires starting and the potential severity of each outbreak. It is incumbent on those of us privileged to manage land to work with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and others to reduce the risk of fire breaking out.”