Thursday, 26 February 2015

Scottish Wildfire Forum - update

SFRS Training Centre, Cambuslang
I represent the Moorland Forum on the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF). The SWF was formed initially in 2005 and was run by the Highlands & Islands Fire & Rescue Service, but momentum was lost in 2011, when the restructuring of the fire services in Scotland started.

The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service  (SFRS) was formed on 1 April 2013, and this coincided with a spate of wildfires, predominantly in the north and west. The SWF was reformed in 2013, spurred on by the experience of the April wildfires, and since then it has been gathering momentum.

One of the most significant recent developments has been the closer cooperation between the SWF, the England & Wales Wildfire Forum and the Wildfire Group set up by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA WG). The concept of a wildfire community has developed and this will help to ensure that there is no duplication of effort in developing policy to minimise the risk of damage from wildfire.

A UK wildfire conference has been held every two years and in 2015 this will be held in Scotland.  The difference this time is that the conference is being organised by the wildfire forums and the CFOA WG. This will allow the conference to be developed to meet the needs of the wildfire community. The SFRS will be hosting the conference at their magnificent training facility in Cambuslang. The theme of the conference will be Wildfire Prevention and it will take place from lunchtime on 10 November and finish at lunchtime the following day. One of the aims for the conference will be to engage with a wide range of interest groups, in an effort to promote the concept that wildfire is not just a problem for the SFRS and that it needs to be planned for with the owners and managers of land, of every description.

Another area of work that the SWF is supporting is the development of a Fire Danger Rating System (FDRS). The CFOA WG put together some ideas with the MetOffice early in 2014, but funding for this was not found. The current proposal is for the wildfire community to identify the need and an approach to produce a system for the UK, and this will include several options. If there is agreement about the requirements for a system, efforts will then be made to get development work funded. The FDRS will provide the SFRS with early warning of high wildfire risk, but ideally the system will also be useful for planning prescribed burning, as it will be able to predict periods when conditions will be suitable.

Wildfire has been suggested as a topic that the Forum should consider in more detail, and it would be good to get input from the Wildfire Project Officer within the SFRS.  A new person is about to be appointed to this role, and as soon as they have settled in, I will approach them with a view to inviting them to attend a Forum meeting.

I will keep the Forum informed of developments within the SWF, and I hope that many members will wish to attend the wildfire conference in November.  I will circulate a programme as soon as this is available. 

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