PyroLife International Symposium: Towards an Integrated Fire Management
Highlights from the fourth PyroLife Symposium webinar on June 24, 2020 by Mario Tapia.
The Netherlands has an extensive history of water management and land reclamation but with increasing risks of a changing climate have turned to a new approach, living with water rather than fighting it. Fulco Ludwig explores if similar strategies can work for fire.
In recent years there has been a change in perspective in how floods are approached in the Netherlands. For hundreds of years, water was a threat to be pushed out; however, that has now changed as water is now seen more as a resource to be embraced and utilized Fulco Ludwig, Professor of Water Systems and Global Change group of Wageningen University, discussed how living with water was implemented, some of the principals behind adaptive flood management, and how adaptive fire management can learn from water management strategies applied in the Netherlands.
The main focus of Dutch water management was preventing floods until the River Rhine flooded in 1995. That was the turning point in which the conversation changed into managing the risks and the uncertainties due to climate change, as full protection was impossible. Under the current changing climate, historical data has proven to not be a useful predictor for the future. Thus communities become more resilient when there are multiple strategies implemented and risks are accepted.
The core of resilient planning and adaptive flood and water management involves accepting uncertainty in the future and developing for multiple scenarios.
This means to:
- experiment (learn by doing)
- explore reversible and flexible options
- capitalizing on low/no regret measures
- acknowledging possibility of future shocks.
A prime example of this is the “Room for the River” in which measures were taken to remove obstacles to let the river flow safely. Dykes were distanced from the main river channel in order to give more space to the river during high flow events. The implementation of retention areas opened up a number of opportunities. These areas were able to serve a number of functions ranging from recreation to water storage for droughts and irrigation.
How can these approaches be integrated into adaptive fire management?
We need an adaptive fire approach because, like flooding, the risks are changing and the future is uncertain. Furthermore, old methods of suppressing and fighting fires are reaching their limits with current fire agencies having trouble managing current conditions. The same core approach of accepting uncertainty in the future and developing for multiple scenarios can work for fires. However, this is easier for floods than it is for fires as floods are typically easier to model and many people are not expected to tolerate fires. Strategies should be implemented stepwise, able to change as the future unfolds and be adapted for various scales: local, municipal, national.