A holistic approach to the challenge of wildfires as a contribution against climate change and for the safety of the community

Wildfires are becoming more frequent and more extreme, and the wildfire season is getting longer in many regions. This poses increasing challenges for the organizations fighting it and also means a threat to the safety of the population and their livelihoods. This development is not only noticeable in those countries that have been struggling with wildfires for a long time, but also in Central and Northern Europe, among others, where wildfires were a rarity until a few years ago. One of the main reasons for this development is climate change. As the IPCC reports (Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change) show, we are heading for global warming of almost three degrees Celsius on average if we do not implement significant measures. The IPCC also stresses that the window of opportunity for mitigating global warming is closing rapidly (by 2025), and as a result factors such as heat, drought, and changes in vegetation and ecosystems will further exacerbate the wildfire situation. It is important to note that not only does climate change affect wildfires, but wildfires also further accelerate climate change and thus there is a significant reciprocal influence. A WWF study shows that already in 2016, 15-20 % of the carbon released was due to deforestation and forest degradation. This illustrates all the more the urgency of tackling climate change and wildfires.

As a holistic solution provider in the field of firefighting system solutions and in an international network, we see it as our mission to make a contribution here. In addition to the existing products in the wildfire sector and their constant further development, we have been researching this extremely complex topic for a long time and aim to take a holistic perspective. This integrated understanding is essential and forms the basis for developing meaningful and effective solutions. The foundation for building up knowledge is a wildfire whitepaper compendium, which includes information from technical literature, scientific studies, and expert findings. Discussions were held with a large number of international wildfire experts from the fire service, forestry, research, and aerial firefighting. The findings from these interviews show that cooperation between the organizations involved, the factors of training and education as well as effective coordination and communication between the units are crucial and are currently implemented (or can be implemented) to an inadequate extent. The experts agree that prevention (including appropriate forest management, forest hygiene, controlled burning, and raising public awareness) is an essential part of wildfire mitigation. However, it is precisely the cooperation between the organizations as well as the training, i.e., the knowledge in the field of forest management and fire, that is critical. If you understand how wildfires can start and spread in the first place, you can prevent and fight them effectively. On the technical side, an interplay of different early detection methods is required. Here, for example, satellite as well as ground-based early detection are considered effective. The combination of prevention and early detection aims to prevent wildfires from starting in the first place or to keep them small if they do break out.

The combination of research, customer experiences from our customer network and expert interviews has shown that in the containment of wildfires, no one single factor is decisive, but a multitude of factors have an effect. Based on the insights gained, the findings in the research area were summarized and presented in the “Wildfire Action Map“. This map shows those subject areas that require urgent action and is intended to help stakeholders understand these factors and their interconnections in their context in a holistic way and thus use resources efficiently. Since wildfires have different effects and impacts around the world and therefore best practices cannot simply be adopted, the Wildfire Action Map is an additional tool for highlighting individual key factors and thus adapting the map on a case-by-case basis.

Wildfire Map

With the establishment of an international network of wildfire experts, the Wildfire Action Map was intensively discussed, challenged, and expanded by experts.

For us at Rosenbauer Research, too, the insights gained have revealed important areas that will be further advanced with research activities. With the development of these solutions, Rosenbauer is making its contribution to combating climate change and fighting wildfires.

It is still possible to take steps against climate change and adapt to the situation, but due to the multitude of contributing factors, a single player can only have a limited impact. In order to achieve a climate-resilient future and to use the closing window of opportunity for effective action, it is a crucial to take joint and rapid action against wildfires. This can only be achieved through a holistic approach and by taking into account all contributing factors, such as vegetation, prevention, early detection, de-escalation, and education (see the Wildfire Action Map). With the topic of wildfire management and ongoing research activities, Rosenbauer is focusing on the issue: we cooperate with experts, start-ups, and organizations (see current press release), develop new solutions and encourage the necessary exchange between the parties involved through targeted networks.

We welcome your thoughts on wildfire de-escalation in the comments.