Wildfires occur around the world. Wildland fire agencies in the U.S. work with wildland fire and emergency response agencies in many other countries to share knowledge, expertise, and fire suppression personnel, equipment, and aircraft through a variety of means, including international agreements, state compacts, interagency agreements, and federal bilateral international assistance programs.
The U.S. has international agreements in place with Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand that enable the countries to obtain fire suppression personnel and aircraft from each other during periods of high wildfire activity. The U.S. and Canada provide fire suppression personnel and/or aircraft to each other virtually every year through these agreements. Several states in the northern tier of the U.S. also have compacts with Canada that enable them to obtain fire suppression personnel and aircraft from each other.
Australia and New Zealand have sent fire suppression personnel to the U.S. to assist with wildfires six times since 2000, most recently in 2015 (link to NIFC news release). The U.S. has sent fire suppression personnel to Australia to assist with wildfires five times since 2003.
Through the U.S. Forest Service, Office of International Programs, U.S. Forest Service and other wildland fire agency personnel in the U.S. participate in disaster risk reduction efforts in partner countries to strengthen the host government’s capacity in fire management, Incident Command Systems (ICS), or National Incident Management Systems (NIMS). These capacity building efforts are accomplished through trainings and demonstrations, technical exchanges, workshops, conferences, and technical field assessments. International Programs receives funding through interagency agreements with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Department of Justice for these capacity building efforts and completes these programs on their behalf.
At the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the U.S. Forest Service, Office of International Programs, Disaster Assistance Support Program (DASP) may send wildland fire technical specialists and/or equipment to other countries to assist with wildfire suppression, incident management, and post-fire rehabilitation efforts. This is accomplished through the use of fire personnel and equipment from the U.S. Forest Service and other wildland fire agencies as available. For example, in 2015, DASP, with the support of the U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Program and Bureau of Land Management, sent a four-person wildland fire technical assistance team, along with 5,000 sets of personal protective equipment and hand tools to Indonesia in response to severe wildfires and at the request of USAID/OFDA.
The U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Program is a member of several international committees. These include:
- North American Forest Commission – Fire Management Working Group (NAFC-FMWG)
The NAFC-FMWG is comprised of representatives from key fire management agencies in Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.
- International Liaison Committee (ILC)
The ILC was established to be the “custodians” of the International Wildland Fire Conference (IWFC) held every four years, and to assist the local steering group of the upcoming IWFC by providing best management practices from past conferences combined with new ideas and plans for the planned international conference, and by providing for program input from a more global base through other wildland fire groups and networks.
- International Fire Aviation Working Group and Wildland Fire Advisory Group
The International Fire Aviation Working Group and Wildland Fire Advisory Group are part of the United Nations construct and develop international guidelines for fire management and operations, and recommend potential solutions to global of multi-national fire management issues.