Juli G. Pausas
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

Presentation Title: Fire and fuels through biotic glasses

Abstract: Global warning, fuel accumulation, and an increased wildland-urban interface are making wildfires a threat in many regions worldwide. However, and throughout the history of life, wildfires have been a key factor shaping our biodiversity, human evolution, and human societies. This contrasting role of wildfires suggests that we may need to change the paradigm under which we currently approach and understand wildfires. We propose viewing wildfires under a biological framework where fuels are evolutionary products, and fires are ecological processes that open gaps and opportunities for biodiversity. Linking this view with a socio-ecological framework should enable us to understand wildfires as an ecosystem service rather than a threat.

Biosketch: Juli Pausas has a PhD in ecology at the University of Barcelona. He is currently a scientist at Centro de Investigación sobre Desertificación (CIDE, Valencia, Spain) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). His research focuses on ecology and evolution of mediterranean and fire-prone ecosystems, and specifically on understanding the role of fire in shaping populations, species (i.e., fire traits), communities (i.e., assembly processes), landscapes, and biomes. He has most experience in the Mediterranean Basin but his work has a global perspective. He has written more than 150 scientific papers, and wrote or edited 3 books (Cork oak woodlands, Fire ecology in Mediterranean ecosystems, Incendios forestales). For more details, please have a look at his web page and his blog.

Christopher A. Dicus, PhD
California Polytechnic State University

Presentation Title: The worsening California fire experience: Is this the new normal?

Abstract: Are the recent devastating wildfires in California and throughout the world the new normal?  In the last 3 years alone, California has experienced 9 wildfires that have burned 500 or more homes, highlighted by the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people and destroyed 18,804 buildings.  This talk provides a brief history of the recent destructive wildfires in California, discussing commonalities (and differences) between them and the difficult lessons we are learning to reduce loss of life and property. 

Multiple mechanisms by which homes ignite are examined and various best practices to ameliorate wildfire risk are considered. I will provide an overview of current attempts that the State is employing before, during, and after a wildfire to mitigate risk to life and property and discuss where we fall short.  Scientific, legal, and case studies from the US and abroad will also be presented to illustrate how proper design can simultaneously increase both property value and a home’s survivability during a wildfire. 

Biosketch: Dr. Christopher A. Dicus is a Professor and Coordinator of the Wildland Fire and Fuels Management Program at California Polytechnic State University. Dr. Dicus is the current President of the Association for Fire Ecology and is also Coordinator of the Wildland Urban Interface Module of the California Fire Science Consortium. He has participated in many post-fire disaster assessments, including the 2007 Southern California Fire Siege and the 2009 Black Saturday Fires in Victoria, Australia. He has spoken at over 90 international and national conferences, including the keynote speaker at the 2009 US Department of Homeland Security Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Research Colloquium and the 2018 Australian Bushfire Building Conference in Melbourne, Australia.  A manuscript that he authored on various issues in the Wildland-Urban Interface was recently named in the “Best Papers 2005-2015” for the journal Fire Ecology.  

Fantina Tedim
Assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, University of Porto, Portugal
University Fellow at Charles Darwin University, Australia

Presentation Title: Extreme wildfires events: an escalating worldwide problem

Abstract: Extreme wildfires events (EWEs) represent a minority among all wildfires, but are a true challenge for societies; they are very complex phenomena that exceed the current control capacity, even in the best prepared regions of the world. They represent a heightened threat to crews, population, assets, and natural values, and likely causes relevant negative socio-economic and environmental impacts.

The occurrence of EWE and its impacts are the result of the complex interplay among macro (e.g., climate teleconnections, economic globalization, public policies) and local (e.g., local atmosphere and fire interaction) processes, factors (e.g., poor initial attack, inadequate perception of the danger, poor preparedness), and conditions (e.g., rough topography, fuel load, landscape connectivity, vulnerable communities).

EWEs are an escalating worldwide problem, exceeding all previous records. While, some countries like Australia, United States, and Canada have a long history of these powerful events, in the last decades this reality emerged in several countries, most notably in Greece, Portugal, and Chile.

Despite the challenges put by climate change, the occurrence of EWEs and wildfire disasters are not an ecological inevitability. Considering the high threat EWEs represent to people and assets, this talk highlights the following aspects:

1. the rationale of the definition of EWE based on its physical properties, duration, size, and consequences. This information is relevant to enhance wildfire prevention and management;
2. the improvement of the wildfire classification proposed by Tedim et al. (2018) through the integration of the potential consequences created by the different categories of fires on crews, citizens, and assets. This information is useful to inform preparedness programs and activities, and emergency manangement;
3. the utility of a citizens survival system to reduce the loss of human lives.This information is relevant to inform wildfire risk and crisis communication, and to enhance people safety.

Biosketch: Fantina Tedim has a PhD in Human Geography at the University of Porto. Her main area of interest and expertise is disaster risk reduction, vulnerability and resilience assessment. Although her research covers different hazards, her main interest is the social dimension of wildfires, and the prevention of extreme wildfire events. Currently, she is the lead of two international projects: FIREXTR-Prevent and prepare the society for extreme fire events (2016-2019) and AVODIS – Understanding and building on the social context of rural Portugal to prevent wildfire disasters (2019-2021). In the scope of FIREXTR project it was proposed a definition of Extreme Wildfire Events (EWE), a classification of wildfires based on fire behavior parameters, and the innovative concept of Fire Smart Territories.

Since 2007, she coordinated 2 international projects, participated in 3 European projects, edited 6 books, published 27 book chapters, 21 papers, and participated in 52 conferences. She is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

Prof. David Bowman
University of Tasmania

Presentation Title: Pyrogeographic thinking – the key to tackling the global fire crisis

Abstract: Fire science has become a crisis discipline, and accordingly the discipline is in crisis. There is increasing recognition that a focus on understanding wildfire as a narrow physical phenomenon, and the associated pursuit of better predictions, in unable stem the global epidemic of fire disasters. More holistic thinking is required by broadening the intellectual framework of wildland fire science to accommodate multiple, and sometimes competing, socio-political and biophysical perspective of fire. Pyrogeography encourages such broader thinking about landscape fire because it integrates and synthesizes insights and knowledge from intellectual domains with a stake in wildfire including, for example, the creative arts and design, humanities and cultural studies, and fundamental and applied hard and soft sciences.

A pyrogeographic framework can enable transiting from the current vicious cycle of problematizing wildfire disasters to a more virtuous cycle of problem solving to achieve sustainable co-existence with fire. This is so because pyrogeography encourages ‘neural diversity’ by giving voice to difference points of view that lie outside classical fire science and fire management paradigms thereby revealing both barriers and opportunities for social and environmental adaptation to wildfire in a non-stationary climate. Pyrogeography thus creates space for innovation, fosters diversity, and provides pathways for building social capacity and capital in communities vulnerable to fire disasters. I illustrate this argument with several pyrogeographic case-studies involving cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Biosketch: Professor David Bowman holds a research chair in Pyrogeography and Fire Science in the School of Natural Sciences and is the Director of the transdisciplinary Fire Centre at the University of Tasmania. He is developing the transdisciplinary field of pyrogeography that provides a synthetic understanding of landscape burning that unites human, physical and biological dimensions of fire from the geological past into the future and spanning local to global geographic scales.

Anne Leadbeater
Director of Leadbeater Company

Presentation Title: Community Continuity: an integrated approach to bushfire planning, response and recovery

Abstract: Whilst the focus of this conference is on fuels and fire behaviour, this needs to be seen in the context of a broad landscape and a whole of community approach.  Decisions about fuels and landscape fire management will ultimately have a consequence on the social, economic and built environment as well as the natural environment.  Conversely, community recovery strategies may result in new and unforeseen consequences for the land and fire manager.  It is crucial that land and fire managers are involved with and integrated into community recovery activities throughout the recovery phase.  This presentation highlights current strategies and trends in community recovery.  It identifies the principles and priorities of community recovery and highlights key points that land and fire managers have to keep in mind when developing fire management strategies.

Biosketch: Anne Leadbeater’s work with communities impacted by fire, flood, cyclone and drought was recognized with her receiving the Order of Australia medal in 2014. Anne is currently director of her own company that specialises in the design and delivery of community disaster recovery programs that focus on community resilience.

In the past she has had roles with the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner, Victoria, and as the Community Engagement Manager with the Murrindindi Shire Council, Victoria. Following the 2009 Black Saturday fires, Anne worked on behalf of the Council to coordinate the initial recovery efforts for the Kinglake Ranges communities. The recovery model that developed was subsequently highlighted as a case study in the final report of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

Gwen Sanchez
Acting Forest Supervisor
Modoc National Forest
USDA, Forest Service 

Presentation Title:  Is This Our New Normal?

Abstract:  Throughout most of the western United States, effects of altered fuel and vegetation complexes, societal expansion into wildland areas, and increasingly drier periods have merged to facilitate worsening fire seasons pervaded by more severe individual fire events and increasingly uncompromising fire behavior.  This has been particularly illustrated in the State of California over recent years.  Numerous wildfires including the North Bay Fires Fall 2018 (~240,000 ac, 44 fatalities, 9,000 buildings destroyed); Mendocino Complex (largest fire in CA history, 459,123ac, 157 residences/123 other buildings); Carr Fire (fire tornado into Redding, CA, 1079 residences destroyed, 22 commercial structures, 503 other buildings, 3 FF fatalities), Camp Fire ( 86 civilian fatalities, 13,972 residences destroyed, 528 commercial destroyed, 4,293 other buildings destroyed) will be discussed.

If these changes in fire occurrence, behavior, impacts, and outcomes are setting a new standard, what does that mean for responders and decision makers?  Specific questions regarding potential changes in fire response and support to match changing fire situations will be discussed.  Specific areas of discussion will include:

  • What does a coordinated effort/response look like?   
  • How important are partnerships and relationships during these types of incidents?   
  • What type of support is needed for these incidents (in terms of large-scale coordination and the role of the Geographic Area Coordination Center [GACC]; logistical support; public information?

Biosketch: Gwen Sanchez is currently the Acting Forest Supervisor for the Modoc National Forest of the USDA Forest Service in Alturas, California, USA.  Her full-time position is the Assistant Director of Operations for the Pacific Southwest Region overseeing fire operations for Northern California. She started her career in Colorado working in small timber sales administration then moved to South Dakota taking a position in fire operations. She has since worked in a variety of fields in fire management, fuels management and planning with a detail to the National Interagency Fire Center working on national-level planning.

Sanchez moved to California in 2014 as a Deputy Forest Fire Management Officer followed by a detail as a District Ranger, both in Northern California. Gwen graduated with a bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.