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Applying ICS to fire management in Bolivia

BOLIVIA – Throughout Latin America, wildland fires, especially where they interface with the urban environment, have significant social, economic and ecological implications. In Bolivia, increased pressures from humans and a changing climate have increased the occurrence of wildland fires. In November 2018, the USDA Forest Service, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State in Bolivia, conducted several workshops on the use of the Incident Command System and fire management in the wildland-urban interface in Tarija and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Danny Montoya, Operations Section Chief for Region 3 Regional Office, and Renee Jack, Fire Operations Supervisor for Deschutes National Forest, designed and conducted the workshops.

During the workshops, disaster response and fire management professionals from Bolivia and Forest Service representatives discussed the use of ICS when responding to a wide variety of incidents. Workshop instructors presented and discussed the concepts of fire operations in the wildland-urban interface. Disaster and wildland fire responders learned how the use of ICS can dramatically reduce the confusion and chaos that accompanies a response to a natural or human-caused disaster and can therefore have a dramatic effect on the safety of all people involved in the emergency response. Participants also learned how a pre-developed interagency disaster response protocol and communication plan can facilitate safe and effective operations. Additionally, the instructors encouraged participants, as responders, to consider interactions and interdependencies between humans, ecosystems and wildlife when designing preparedness and response actions.

Through presentations, discussions, and group activities including a sand table simulation, the participants gained a strong foundation in the theory, skills, and tools needed to implement ICS. Participants also learned about the various practices and skills needed when responding to wildland fires with urban interface. Instructors stressed the importance of interagency response protocol and preparedness planning as well as pre-season meetings and simulation exercises with representatives from all agencies involved in disaster response.

The workshops were organized and funded as a partnership between the International Programs office and the U.S. Department of State in Bolivia.


Participants discussing ICS and wildland-urban interface fire management using the “sand box” tool. USDA Forest Service photo

Disaster response police officer participating in group discussion about ICS implementation. USDA Forest Service photo.