Challenges of integrated fire management discussed at the first FIRE-RES Community of Wildfire Innovation workshop

In the Living Labs creation context, FIRE-RES provides the implementation of strategies and actions, applied both at local and regional level and extended for use as instruments of governance on a global scale and under the most diverse conditions.

In order to ensure the participation of all stakeholders, FIRE-RES proposed the creation of Communities of Wildfire Innovation (CWI) in each of the Living Labs. Imbedded in the project’s mission, it is crucial to promote a close and collaborative relationship between the various CWI members, as their participation is essential for a better understanding of the state of integrated fire management and for building a common vision for a more fire resilient landscape in 2030. In the Portuguese context, the CWI is made up of strategic actors, with a greater scope for integrated forest and fire management, and of operational actors, directly involved in the innovation actions to be implemented in the demonstration areas.

At the same time, it will be important to understand the challenges and gaps of the integrated rural fire management system, in progress in Lousã and in the Sousa Valley, understanding how FIRE-RES can respond to the most emerging challenges. This step requires that the CWI in each Living Lab knows exactly where it is (diagnosis of the current vision) and, mainly, where it wants to go (the ideal scenario in a vision of the future).

CoLAB ForestWISE and ISA organised preliminary meetings with CWI stakeholders, on October 21 and 24, in the two demonstration areas of the Portuguese Living Lab, in Penafiel and Lousã, with the support of the Sousa Valley Forestry Association and the National Firefighting School, respectively, to materialize this Community and to present the FIRE-RES project, as well as the innovation actions to be implemented in Portugal.

The first CWI workshop took place on November 4, at Lousã´s Ecomuseum, with 34 participants, represented by various public and private sector entities, forest owners, non-governmental organisations and universities. Organised by CoLAB ForestWISE and ISA, and with the support of Lousã Town Council, this event allowed the sharing of knowledge and perspectives about integrated fire management, considering the activity of each participant, and gathered consensus for the various aspects present in a more fire-resilient landscape. In the afternoon session, the participants formed multidisciplinary groups distributed by the three phases of the fire cycle: prevention and preparedness, detection and reaction, adaptation and restoration. In this session, the participants were able to reflect about the current challenges and the path to be followed, considering the changes needed to reach the solutions, and understanding how the FIRE-RES project, with the range of innovation actions, can respond to those same challenges.

The slow post-fire restoration, the lack of a shared management, the remuneration of ecosystem services and the low economic profitability of forestry activities were some of the challenges discussed. Possible solutions included the creation of conditions for a rapid response by combat agents, the existence of incentives for reparcelling, with common objectives, and the existence of financial support for activities aimed at remunerating ecosystem services.

The workshop dynamics created an enriching debate, which turned out to be brief for the complex issues addressed by the FIRE-RES project. Currently formed by 51 presential members, the CWI is implemented in Portugal, and the conditions are also launched for the next events and demonstration meetings of the innovation actions to become a collaborative and cohesive path that will effectively contribute to a better integrated fire management and to the construction of a fire resilient landscape.