Fuel, fire and smoke: Evolving to meet our climate challenge

IAWF conferenceWildfires have become an increasing challenge to humanity, the ecosystem, and the atmosphere we depend on. Responding to larger and more destructive wildfires and protecting against their climate impacts is challenging; understanding fire behavior and our responses is critical.

The 7th International Fire Behaviour and Fuels Conference is a forum in which fire management experience is documented, current work is showcased, and emerging research is shared as we together develop solutions to these challenges.

This conference on three continents brings together countries in three areas of the world to develop fire policies at national, regional– to learn from others how they address fire risks and build resilience. The conference unites policymakers, scientists, managers, and indigenous land stewards for a shared purpose in  living with fire.

The 7th International Fire Behaviour and Fuels Conference hosts events on three continents, highlighting a range of experience from different countries to develop fire management policies in facing risk and building resilience.

The conference will bring together policymakers, scientists, fire managers, and Indigenous land stewards, and more for a shared purpose of creating a future where we can live with fire. Join us for an authentic conversation on managing fires and creating a sustainable future.

Presenters and speakers this year include Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, Dr. Dean Yibarbuk, Dr. Lachlan McCaw, Prof. Nerilie Abram, Prof. Sarah Legge, Dr. Dan Pronk, Katie Lighthall, Dr. Mark Finney, Dr. Mark Parrington, Dr. Joseph Wilkins, Edward Alexander,and Dr. Conceicao Colaco. All conference registrants at any of the three locations will receive access to recordings of each presentation.

Workshops: Our interactive workshops are educational and feature a range of topics to choose from. You can learn new skills and connect with experts in their fields.

Field Tours: Each location has scheduled a collection of field trip opportunities. Field tours provide hands-on learning options  from exploring nature to sharing history and culture. Select your trip when you register.

Exhibitors: Our exhibition hosts a range of displays and demos. You will learn more about the latest products and services in fire science and management. We look forward to seeing you there!

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The International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) professional association committed to a non-partisan approach for uniting the global wildland fire community. We were formed in 1990 as a global professional membership association. For 30 years IAWF has grown from a fledgling organization to a global member-focused association spanning 26+ countries. The IAWF was formed to promote a better understanding of wildland fire and built on the belief that an understanding of this dynamic natural force is vital for natural resource management, protecting the health, safety, and welfare of people including firefighters and the public, and for harmonious interactions between people and their environment. IAWF is dedicated to communicating with the entire wildland fire community and providing a global linkage for people with shared interest in wildland fire and all of the associated topics of this multifaceted community. To accomplish these goals, we convene and create networks across sectors, fields, and disciplines to connect the wildfire community through multiple platforms, through which we communicate — including conferences, our website, the premier academic journal in our field (International Journal of Wildland Fire), a popular-oriented magazine (Wildfire) and via social media outlets.

Reclamation of fire and water for Klamath River tribes

The elements themselves were taken from the Yurok Tribe when the federal government forced them onto a northern California reservation in 1855.

Gone was the earth of the tribe’s ancestral lands. Gone were the salmon-filled waters the tribe had relied on. Gone was the tribe’s access to cultural burning. And, earlier this year, the tribe even lost access to its air.

On the evening of August 15, the Six Rivers National Forest was hit with 150 lightning strikes that ignited 27 confirmed fires, according to inciweb. A dozen of those fires were ignited in Del Norte County, fires that would later be managed together as the Smith River Complex.

Smoke from the complex drifted down onto the town of Klamath on the Yurok Reservation, according to Arizona Republic reporter Debra Utacia Krol. The town’s air would go on to acquire the unmistakable odor of gas-powered generators after the local utility shut power off in fears of sparking another wildfire.

Smith River Complex
Smith River Complex, Mad River Hotshots, inciweb photo

The Smith River Complex would burn 95,107 acres before it was 100 percent contained nearly two months later on October 13. The complex’s BAER team assessment estimated that ~49 percent of the area’s soil was burned at either a moderate or a high severity. The assessment also found that multiple watersheds in the area were severely burned. While the fire didn’t burn on the Yurok Reservation itself, it stands as one of the many reasons the tribe is pushing to reclaim its elements.

In 2013, the tribe formed the Cultural Fire Management Council to keep alive the practice of cultural burning on the Yurok Reservation and ancestral lands. The group partners with numerous agencies and nonprofits, including the USFS, Cal Fire, and the Nature Conservancy.

Cultural Fire Management Council
Cultural Fire Management Council [CulturalFire.org] photo
The council pushes toward its goal through fuels reduction, cooperative burns, and returning the freedom to burn back to individual families and property owners on the reservation. The council also offers numerous workshops and trainings to get more people involved in cultural and managed fire.

“We’ve been suppressing fire and really, what we’ve been doing is suppressing this critical piece of who we are as humans,” the group’s treasurer and cultural fire practitioner Elizabeth Azzuz told High Country News. “Fire isn’t something apart from us. Fire is family.”

The tribe is also working to reclaim its waters by leading the largest dam removal project in U.S. history. Over the next year, four dams along the Klamath River will be deconstructed and removed as part of a 20-year effort by river advocates and tribal members to stop the devastation of the river’s salmon population. The deconstruction of the first dam occurred in early November.


The recent wins contribute to a sense of the tribe’s reclaiming agency over its natural resources for the betterment of the land and the tribe’s members.

“We’ve been talking and begging about doing this for so long, just spinning our wheels,” Yurok Forestry Director Dawn Blake told the Associated Press. “It feels like we’re finally being heard.”