An uncontained forest fire burning in Greece, Germany, or the U.S. looks basically the same: they are all destructive. For this important reason, the U.S. Forest Service has a well-established international leadership role in wildland fire management.
The Fire and Aviation Management or FAM’s international program coordinates Forest Service leadership in wildland fire through three main efforts starting with support for international disasters. The next effort is mobilization of fire suppression resources in support of established bilateral arrangements, coordinated by the National Interagency Fire Center and finally through FAM’s international activities coordinated with the Forest Service’s International Programs Office.
FAM’s international activities are designed to support cooperation and development and to help the Forest Service fulfill its international leadership role in wildland fire management. FAM works to make certain all international activities fulfill the Forest Service mission to provide FAM assistance as requested and funded, gain knowledge from international cooperators for potential U.S. application, and position the Forest Service as a worldwide leader in FAM expertise.
National level agreements have been established with Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. The first agreement was established with Canada in 1982 and we have exchanged resources 29 of the 30 years of the agreement. A second agreement was established with Mexico in 1983. Agreements established with Australia and New Zealand in 2001 followed the devastating fires in the Northern Rockies in 2000.
Additionally, we have border agreements between Canada and Mexico which allow each nation to initiate a response on lands within 10 miles of the international border.
Instruction in fire management and assistance is provided to nations that have a genuine interest in solving fire management challenges and that demonstrate a willingness to financially sustain their programs over a long period. Tailored programs are developed that meet our cooperator’s needs, are consistent with their ability to effectively implement new programs, and are sensitive to cultural and economic conditions. Capacity building efforts often involve FAM fire managers travelling to nations requesting an exchange of knowledge and information in all aspects of fire management.
Given our ever increasing connectivity, thinking about the ways fire transcends and challenges our borders is a topic worthy of further discussion. The future is one where not only fire crosses borders, but learning, exchange and support cross borders as well.