Fernanda Romero de Altos Cantillana presenta información sobre involucrando la communidad en gestionar los incendios..

On April 11, 2024, Smart Forests and Fundación Mar Adentro held a day of presentations and collaborative work at the Universidad de la Frontera (UFRO). The objectives of the day were to discuss and jointly propose practices and guidelines for the development of a community fire prevention plan in the Palguín watershed, La Araucanía Region. This was done through a collaborative and participatory activity between different actors related to disaster risks, territorial planning, fire prevention, management of parks and nature reserves, and public entities. They were able to share their knowledge and experiences regarding current practices, existing networks and technologies used in the framework of forest fire prevention, in addition to reflecting on existing strengths and future challenges.

During the meeting, several ideas on the design of fire prevention plans were put forward, highlighting the need for interdisciplinary collaboration to promote better prevention. The participants of the meeting proposed that these plans should consider the community as a relevant actor and that they should be led by the communities themselves. They also emphasized the need for a cultural change and the importance of environmental education from childhood to raise awareness, sensitize and prepare stakeholders about the problem.

In technical and regulatory terms, they suggested the creation and standardization of land-use planning instruments in rural areas and more comprehensive legislation on fires and the use of fire. They also commented on the importance of valuing prevention in order to allocate sufficient human and economic resources.

Regarding technologies, they concluded that guaranteeing access to the use of technologies, adapting their implementation according to the territorial and social context, as well as promoting digital literacy, would improve the design and execution of fire prevention plans.

Invitación a encuentro Fundación Mar Adentro y Smart Forests

Invitation to Mar Adentro Foundation and Smart Forests to attend the meeting

The stakeholders present at the meeting represented a diverse range of disciplines that contribute to fire detection, management, control and prevention. Fire professionals, community organizers, cultural professionals and researchers were present at the event. Among the participating institutions were the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), with representatives from the Department of Community Management and Territorial Planning, the Boldo 1 Operations Center (Temuco), the Araucarias Biosphere Reserve and Villarrica National Park; the municipalities of the communes of Nacimiento and Pucón from the Disaster Risk Management Directorate, and the Regional Ministerial Secretariat (SEREMI) of the Araucanía Region. The Altos de Cantillana Corporation and some organizations specifically focused on fire prevention, such as the Arca Sur Foundation and the Community Prevention Network, also participated.

Jennifer Gabrys, director of the Smart Forest project and researcher at the Department of Sociology of the University of Cambridge, gave a presentation on the changes in fire prevention practices, networks and technologies. Paola Mendez then presented the community tools for fire prevention applied by the Arca Sur Foundation. Fernanda Romero, also shared the lessons learned and local coordination experienced in the emergency, given the last fire in the Altos de Cantillana Natural Reserve. Finally, Ignacio Gutiérrez and Sebastián Riffo from the Arts and Disasters Unit of the Research Center for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (CIGIDEN) presented "Arts of Disaster: Fires in Chile ".

Amerindia Jaramillo presenta la escuela de campo

Amerindia Jaramillo introduces the field school

After the brief presentations, the dynamics of the meeting consisted of working in groups to identify existing practices, networks and technologies against fires, and to develop proposals. The first group of conversations reviewed the current status of community forest fire prevention plans in the Andean Araucanía from a disciplinary perspective. Therefore, the groups were divided into research professionals, public sector professionals and territorial managers. The second segment consisted of random groups that proposed future fire prevention practices, networks and technologies that could take advantage of the latest advances.

We were able to identify 76 prevention practices distributed in various themes. Of these, 19 are related to Governance in its various dimensions, 17 to Environmental Education, 15 to Fire Management, 13 to Territorial Planning, 7 to the Construction of Prevention Infrastructure, 4 to Local Knowledge and 1 to Post-Fire Restoration . The most mentioned by the participants are related to the role and importance of communities in prevention, the link between actors for a coordinated reaction, training and environmental education, and the implementation of firebreaks, cleaning and pruning.

With this we understood that, in order to improve prevention plans, it is essential for communities to be properly informed and supported by both public and private actors. This would allow them to develop practices ranging from the individual to the territorial level. Furthermore, to achieve this, it is necessary that public and private actors allocate greater resources, both human and economic, for prevention measures, research and education in this area.

Participante del Laboratorio de Ecosistemas y Bosques de la Universidad de la Frontera de Temuco exponiendo sobre las prácticas, redes y tecnologías encontradas por el grupo de académicos.

Participant of the Laboratory of Ecosystems and Forests of the Universidad de la Frontera of Temuco presenting the practices, networks and technologies found by the group of academics.

Local governance practices

During the discussion on current prevention practices, several practices related to governance at the local level emerged, which recognize communities and municipalities as relevant actors responsible for prevention. Governance refers to the interaction and involvement of various actors in decision-making processes, implementation and evaluation of issues of public interest. It includes formal and informal institutions, such as citizen organizations, and depends on participation , responsibility and collaboration among the different actors.

In this context, the meeting participants highlighted community participation and organization, the development of prevention capacities in the communities, the strengthening of local leadership and fire detection activities. They also mentioned current practices aimed at local development and strengthening the care of the territory through incentives.

They also mentioned the existence of partnerships between public and private institutions and technical support to municipalities. Practices that address the problem of prevention from a broader and more general perspective, which could be a form of governance on a larger scale.

However, these practices need to be improved, as mentioned in the discussion on an effective community plan, as they may be insufficient in their design and execution. We recognized the need to design and implement prevention plans led and proposed by the communities themselves, which, in turn, are linked to a network of institutions that facilitate training and participatory workshops on prevention and provide financial resources for this. The plans should include a process for communication , planning, emergency response and post-event recovery that links all stakeholders.

The creation of prevention committees with a territorial approach, the strengthening of identities and emotional ties in the territory, effective communication and coordinated reaction among the actors of the network, as well as the creation of prevention structures and the allocation of resources according to the needs of the communities were important. Also, at least once a semester, the emergency plan should be applied with the entire community, including schools, neighbors, and other key actors as a consistent measure to improve fire response capacity.

Likewise, promoting the acquisition of knowledge from the community to develop practices in the particular to the territorial would also improve these plans. With this, we reaffirm the role of prepared communities and the importance of information management for effective prevention.

Local knowledge practices

Closely related to prevention practices related to local governance are the practices associated with local knowledge. These are relevant in prevention as they are based on the knowledge accumulated by the communities themselves in each territory and allow the collection of valuable information on the dynamics of the territory, contributing to territorial planning and risk identification. Some of the practices we identified are the collection of land histories, the recording of ancestral and local practices, knowledge of the territory and the creation of spaces for the exchange of local knowledge. These practices provide a greater context for prevention and promote efficient measures for each territory, based on its characteristics and needs, in addition to supporting the involvement of communities in fire prevention.

Local knowledge not only offers information about the dynamics of the territory, but also provides clues about past events, such as old fires, and about how fire has interacted with the environment. In this sense, fostering the exchange and visibility of knowledge, as well as working on the relationship and coexistence with the multiple dimensions of fire, based on this knowledge and from a biocultural memory perspective, is a practice to be developed and promoted.

Prevention education and training practices

On the other hand, we were able to show that environmental education is related to prevention activities, as it contributes to raising awareness in society and promoting understanding of the causes and consequences of forest fires. Environmental education, specifically, aims to teach knowledge about environmental care to citizens, in order to change behaviors and generate commitment and awareness about environmental problems.

In this regard, the meeting participants referred to environmental education as a current prevention practice, mentioning topics such as climate change, resilience and biodiversity , education on a landscape scale, as well as the slogan "know to care". They also pointed to the environmental certification of schools through the National System of Environmental Certification of Educational Establishments (SNCAE) as part of these. The SNCAE seeks to incorporate and address environmental protection and commitment within the curriculum and the educational community.

On the other hand, they covered education from a training perspective on prevention activities, pointing out as current practices the training in prevention for communities and professionals, and training to identify risk areas. These trainings reflect, together with local governance practices, the role of the community both to educate itself and to implement prevention measures from the individual to the collective, as well as the role of the actors who manage prevention knowledge and tools to create training instances.

At one point during the day, by way of comparison, the actors shared their views on the culture in Chile in relation to earthquakes. In these cases, at the country level, we have established very clear measures regarding the construction of buildings to mitigate risks and how to react to such events. However, this level of preparedness and preventive awareness is not as marked for forest fires, which supports practices related to education from an early age and the periodic execution of drills.

Due to the importance of learning about the processes that create correct prevention and the causes and consequences of forest fires, the participants discussed the challenge of incorporating a more comprehensive education in prevention planning. They mentioned that prevention education should be defined according to the context of each area, and should include social, cultural, ecological and geographical contents, as well as fire ecology. For this, they proposed workshops in schools and community science as educational instances, which at the same time make compatible the need to share knowledge from childhood upwards. These proposals are also indirectly related to the urgency of funding from public and private actors integrated in the prevention network.

Fire management practices and use of fire

Fire management practices are fundamental cultural and physical practices in reducing fire risk in terms of spread and occurrence, since they are based on fuel treatment and landscape management. According to participants in the Araucanía Region, one of the most commonly used practices is the implementation of firebreaks. They also mentioned prescribed burning, preventive silviculture and tree pruning. These practices refer to both individual and collective responsibility, involving specific actors in rural and urban areas. In addition, participants highlighted the importance of forest management by CONAF and private institutions in landscape management, as they have a direct impact on the condition of forests and plantations.

In discussing the practices to be developed to improve prevention, they also stressed the need for more training for local actors on fuel reduction using fire and the timely implementation of these practices, as well as broader and more comprehensive legislation in terms of fire regulation, encouraging alternatives to fire and restricting burns.

Spatial planning practices

Another of the main themes resulting from the discussion on current prevention practices was territorial planning, understood as a management process that seeks to develop urban and rural areas, incorporating physical, social and economic aspects of the territory. The inclusion of a prevention approach in territorial planning allows and supports the development of measures at the territorial and organizational level to reduce disaster risks, and in this case, fire risks.

The identification and study of urban-rural interface zones were among the most relevant prevention practices in the discussion, since in these areas the habitat for forest fires and the population are mixed, increasing the danger and damage, such as loss of housing, buildings and life, which emphasizes the priority in territorial planning.

They also mentioned the practices of identifying bodies of water to optimize fire fighting, fire risk mapping considering all its components, from hazards to vulnerability and exposure, the recognition of waste sites in urban areas, the cadastre of risky productive activities, and planning focused on land use and key areas of both urbanization and rurality for the occurrence of fires.

They also mentioned the protection of critical infrastructure, the design of reaction protocols, fire severity classification and post-fire restoration measures. Although these practices do not directly correspond to territorial planning practices, they rely on the associated instruments (IPT) in order to be developed.

One of the challenges that became evident was that there are no territorial planning instruments in rural areas, making it difficult to apply measures with a focus on prevention at the territorial and landscape level. From this, other similar needs emerged, such as the design of a territorial planning that considers and works together with local communities, the creation of territorial planning instruments at different scales such as national, basins and micro-basins, the homologation of these instruments and a greater interconnection between prevention and planning.

Construction practices and protection of homes and buildings

On the other hand, we observed some current prevention practices that aim to design, construct and protect properties such as houses, buildings and road infrastructure. This type of practice responds directly to the reaction capacity of those responsible for firefighting and to the slowing down and reduction of fire damage. Some of those mentioned by the participants are the application of a housing protocol that aims at individual and collective responsibility in the home, the protection of buildings with materials to slow down fire, the improvement of accessibility through the repair of roads, public and private roads, and the construction of preventive structures.

Fire prevention network

As for those involved in the current prevention network, the collective was able to recognize several actors, such as the communities and their forms of organization, public and private institutions, such as SENAPRED, municipalities, CONAF, the Community Prevention Network, research centers, foundations and companies.

Sebastián de Fundación Mar Adentro, moderando el grupo del sector público en la escuela de campo, Temuco, Chile.

Sebastián Carrasco of Fundación Mar Adentro moderating the public sector group, which includes members of CONAF and municipalities, in the discussion on current forest fire prevention practices, networks and technologies.

Specifically, the stakeholders identified neighborhood councils, rural drinking water committees (RWCs) and the different forms of community organization. The National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), the National Disaster Prevention and Response Service of the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security (SENAPRED) and municipalities as public sector actors. They also mentioned the Fire Department, the National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior (ONEMI), the Ministry of Education, the Community Risk and Disaster Management Officer, the Temuco Municipal Education Department (DAEM), the Mayor's Office and the Highway Department.

They also mentioned various research centers such as the Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Studies (CIIR), the UC Center for Local Development (CEDEL), the Territorial Planning Laboratory Center (LPT-UC Temuco), and universities in general. Also, private non-profit institutions such as FMA, the Community Fire Prevention Network, and other organizations that carry out research, education and community participation programs. Finally, we observed private for-profit institutions, referring to companies related to forestry management, power lines and urban trees , in addition to prevention.

One of the important points highlighted by the participants in the meeting was the importance of educational establishments as stakeholders that need to be involved in the prevention network. This considering that the aim is to promote prevention from an early stage in order to address the problem from a more comprehensive perspective and promote a cultural change.

Apart from mentioning actors, we also identified the actions that generate and promote the current fire prevention network. Such as the linkage between public, private and neighborhood organizations, as well as the collaboration between emergency networks and social and environmental organizations. The participants mentioned the existence of the allocation of resources for prevention, the relevance of territorial managers and the work with municipalities and schools with environmental certification (SCAM and SNCAE) as actions that maintain the links between actors.

Regarding the strengthening of the network in the future, they stressed the importance of designing plans with a multisectoral approach and territorial equity, which consider the local community from construction to implementation. These plans should involve all relevant actors in prevention, including organizations present in the territories and articulate collaboration and linkages between them.

They specifically mentioned the creation of working groups that consider the representation of local communities and social organizations, the reduction of language gaps by using less complex language, improving the connection between the actors of the network and those of the research area to communicate progress, the creation of long-term dissemination campaigns, the involvement of the network of schools certified in prevention, training in prevention, homologation of information and greater funding and resources.

Sugerencias para prácticas y planes contra incendios.

Suggestions for fire prevention practices and plans.

Technologies used in the prevention, monitoring , detection and management of fires

In terms of technologies, we identified several categories that play key roles in fire prevention and management. On the one hand, there are monitoring technologies such as cameras, drones , robots, thermal sensors and weather station instruments, and on the other, remote sensing technologies such as satellite imagery. There are also georeferencing technologies such as Geographic Information Systems ( GIS ) and GPS, and fire simulation and risk modeling tools. In the field of communication, participants highlighted applications such as WhatsApp, radios, social networks and web pages of institutions that keep a record of fires.

An outstanding example within communication technologies is Rawli, a tool integrated into the WhatsApp application that is capable of identifying text patterns related to fires and burns, coding them and generating automatic responses to consult the user if he/she wishes to report any situation to entities such as the Carabineros, CONAF, fire brigades, companies or municipalities. This tool facilitates the linking of the community with other actors responsible for fire management in a fast and efficient way.

In the case of the public sector, CONAF's fire detection system involves alliances between the private and public sectors to gain access to fire monitoring, detection and suppression technologies. These technologies are complemented by the use of satellite images and geographic information systems to obtain risk maps as inputs for prevention and monitoring. At the same time, they have a web page where they communicate the current fire situation, using information from the Digital Information System for Operations Control - SIDCO CONAF.

However, at the meeting we discussed the existence of several needs regarding the use of technologies in the context of Andean areas. Such as, for example, guaranteeing transversal and localized access to the information collected through the use of technologies, providing training in their use to the community, and adapting their implementation according to the territorial context. In this sense, in some rural areas there are difficulties in accessing and using digital technologies. To this end, some participants suggested improving communication antennas in isolated areas, increasing digital literacy and improving communication networks. In addition, they mentioned that lighting in mountainous terrain and the use of mass media in rural areas are even more urgent needs in the context of Andean areas.

resumen grupal de ideas de escuelas de campo para prácticas y futuros de incendios comunitarios

Group summary of field school ideas for internships and community fire futures.

Next steps in prevention

So, what are the next steps we should take to develop a community fire prevention plan? Through this meeting we were able to bring together the various disciplines and areas that converge in a comprehensive fire prevention and management planning, which allowed us to identify that prevention should be seen as an intersection of measures and stakeholders.

In this sense, we require the willingness of all actors to collaborate in formulating and maintaining a multidisciplinary and comprehensive prevention network, as well as the willingness to manage individually and collectively the responsibilities of each one.

We also require a cross-cutting environmental education that begins at an early age and is supported by the educational system. This should make it possible to raise awareness and sensitize people to the problem and generate the necessary cultural change to prevent the occurrence of fires. Part of this is also related to the need for the creation of dissemination instances about the causes and consequences of fires, the problems in prevention and the need to position the value of prevention.

In relation to the above, it is essential for us to increase the allocation of both human and financial resources for prevention under the umbrella of public-private institutions and actors. Because they are necessary to implement prevention plans and the measures proposed in them.

We also highlighted the need to design plans considering the community, with practices of territorial equity, governance at the local level, horizontality and multisectoriality, and valuing local and ancestral knowledge about the territory and fire.

On the other hand, at the national level, it is necessary to expand fire legislation. The creation of a new institutional framework, concrete public policies, greater regulation in the use of fire, and policies to reduce gaps in high mountain areas are some of the needs identified at the meeting.

It is therefore essential to improve territorial planning instruments in order to develop prevention plans appropriate to the territories. For this, we need a regulated land-use planning and the formulation and standardization of both criteria and land-use planning instruments.

Finally, the need to facilitate access to prevention-related technologies, ensure digital literacy and adapt their use according to each territory was emphasized.

Header image: Fernanda Romero of Altos Cantillana presents information on involving the community in fire management. Smart Forests, 2024.

Smart Forests Atlas materials are free to use for non-commercial purposes (with attribution) under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. To cite this story: Rivas, Paula, Pablo González, and Jennifer Gabrys, "Community Fire Plans: Field School," Smart Forests Atlas (2024), https://atlas.smartforests.net/en/stories/community-fire-plans/.

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Fernanda Romero de Altos Cantillana presenta información sobre involucrando la communidad en gestionar los incendios..