Issue #74 🔥 Learning to live with wildland fire + COVID-19

Some of us are heading into week number four of “Stay Home, Stay Safe” due to COVID-19 and the strong guidance coming out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has left us wondering how fire and land managers and communities will address the multitude of issues that are looming over the 2020 fire year.Over the last six years, application of the Cohesive Strategy has led to great success in addressing wildland fire issues through an “all hands, all lands” approach to make progress towards resilient landscapes, fire adapted communities and a safe, effective, risk-based wildfire response. This year is no different. Despite the new challenges, stakeholders across the West continue to:
  • Define and understand their risks
  • Collaboratively set landscape-level and community-wide priorities
  • Share and co-manage risk across boundaries and jurisdictions
  • Accept some short-term risk for the longer-term benefit
  • Collectively invest in outcome-based approaches and activities
This edition of the Western Region’s Newsletter is focused on how some of our stakeholders are approaching wildland fire issues due to COVID-19. As you’ll see, there is no shortage of innovation and determination when it comes to collectively addressing challenges in our wildland fire system.Our thoughts are with you as you confront these issues in your agencies and organizations.
~ Kate Lighthall, Coordinator, Western Region

Wildfires and the Pandemic – What’s Ahead

Written by WRSC member Bob Roper of the Western Association of Fire Chiefs, this article offers perspective and guidance to fire leaders and communities in the US West and beyond as they prepare for a wildfire season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
US Forest Service

USDA Forest Sevice Chief’s 2020 Letter of Intent for Wildland Fire

“Just as in any fire year, we are not in this alone. Responding to wildland fire in this country is a partnership – across all levels of government. We are seeing just how important these partnerships are as States, local government, contractors, Tribes, and the Federal government band together to fight COVID-19 – just as we all band together to fight fires.”
~ Vicki Christiansen
Letter of Intent

Department of The Interior: Statement on Wildfires and COVID-19

wildland firefighters

Agencies Hurry to Devise Wildland Firefighting Protocols in Coronavirus Era

“Our focus is really on figuring out how we’re going to carry out our responsibilities in this new operating environment,” he said…a myriad of issues we need to address.”
~ Mike Degrosky, Fire Protection Bureau Chief, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
Article in The Missoulian
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Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center on COVID-19: Thinking Outside the Stratosphere 

In this blog post, Bre Orcasitas writes about how far we must expand our capacity to conceive of and integrate the heavy layer of complexity coronavirus is bringing to wildland fire management.

 “The trick is recognizing and accepting that we cannot continue moving forward as if all things are normal, things are most certainly not normal. The term “think outside the box” might need to be expanded to “think outside the stratosphere,” for we are in uncharted territory.”

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The Panic Myth: What Does the Research Say and What Can Practitioners Do?

From the Fire Adapted Communities Network Blog

“Research clearly demonstrates that actual panic (irrational, nonadaptive, or antisocial behavior) in response to a natural hazard, including wildfire, is extremely rare.  Evidence shows that although there may be heightened anxiety, fear, and more rapid action (all rational responses to impending danger), individuals tend to respond to an imminent threat by first engaging in gathering more information to determine the best course of action and then proceeding to act in a manner congruent to their situation.”

~Sarah McCaffrey, Research Forester, USDA Forest Service
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