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Wildfires 2023 - meet the Wildfire Support Team experts

Wildfires 2023: meet the Wildfire Support Team experts

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Throughout the wildfire season, the Wildfire Support Team is an additional asset of the UCPM, with a wide range of activities during the summer period. Based at the ERCC, the Wildfire Support Team contributes to operational awareness and ongoing wildfire operations, and takes an active part in wildfire reporting. We met some of the experts currently bringing their skills and knowledge to the Team.

By Knowledge Network – Staff member

The Wildfire Support Team, is active from 19 June to 15 September, brings a wealth of wildfire expertise from across UCPM countries. National experts are nominated by UCPM member and participating states to join the Wildfire Support Team at the ERCC for either a week or two weeks at a time, on a rotating basis.

Over the wildfire season, 16 experts from different UCPM member and participating states will be part of the team, as well as six experts from ARISTOTLE. Completing the team is a duty officer from the ERCC’s Forest Fire working group.

I come from academic research, it's been very interesting to see the relationship between the assessment that we do at the academic level and then what really happens on the ground.

Renārs Žeļezkins is from the State Fire and Rescue service of Latvia. When we caught up with him his two-week placement with the Wildfire Support Team had just begun: “I’m expecting to gain more experience from other colleagues; it's my first time in Brussels and to the ERCC. It's only day two but already there’s been a lot of information for me, that's good because I’m here to learn. Knowledge like this, it’s so useful for me personally and for the team home in Latvia.” 

As part of their placement in the Wildfire Support Team, experts present their own work, a valuable knowledge-sharing exercise within ECHO. When we visited, Mafalda Silva from ARISTOTLE and Juan Caamaño Azcarate from the Pau Costa Foundation were presenting their work; a blend of the academic and the operational.

Mafalda has enjoyed seeing the interface between academic work and operational forest firefighting. She says: “Because I come from academic research, it's been very interesting to see the relationship between the assessment that we do at the academic level and then what really happens on the ground. I'm learning a lot about the procedures, and the relationships and the connections between the knowledge and the practice.”

“It's all about personal connections and experience, I’ve made new connections on the operational side and have a new perspective on fire danger assessment.”

It's about transferring knowledge. Building networks is key.

Juan Caamaño Azcarate is a forestry engineer and forest fire specialist from Spain. He shared his knowledge of fire analysis: the volatile combination between fuel availability, topography and weather conditions that drives wildfires but also helps us to study and understand them. For him, wildfire prevention through better land management is what counts.

Juan believes that we can harness the knowledge that we have for better wildfire prevention response: “We have to learn to live with fire. Speaking about exchanging experience and that knowledge, we produce knowledge in places where the emergencies take place, for example in southern European countries we have invested a lot to understand forest fires. But then we don’t have the same focus on snowstorms that they do in the northern European countries. It's about transferring knowledge. That's why building networks is key.”

About the author

The Knowledge Network – Staff member

The Knowledge Network editorial team is here to share the news and stories of the Knowledge Network community. We'd love to hear your news, events and personal stories about your life in civil protection and disaster risk management. If you've got a story to share, please contact us.

Thematic series

European forest fire season