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Fire Chasers Present at 3rd Annual National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop

The 3rd Annual National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop was held in Plymouth, MA October 21-24, 2019. The Fire Chasers Team delivered three presentations at this workshop.

Presentation #1: “Not Your Father or Mother’s Fire Organization: Jurisdictional Complexity in the New Era of Wildfire

By Dr. Branda Nowell, North Carolina State University

This 5 minute ignite flash talk quickly discussed the increasing complexity of wildfire management. While we commonly reference the growing complexity of wildland fire, there is much we still don’t know about the nature of the changes that are taking place. The changing nature of jurisdictional complexity on wildfires, and its associated implications for the type of incident response organizations necessary, is one domain in which data has been limited. This ignite talk presented national data offering a historical perspective on the changing face of jurisdictional complexity of wildfires in the US.

Presentation #2: Preparing for Jurisdictionally Complex Wildfires: Are the Right Actors Having the Right Conversations?

By. Dr. Toddi Steelman, Duke University

As the jurisdictional complexity of wildland fires increases, safe and effective wildfire response will require a new type of conversation. This conversation should build capacity for diverse government and private actors to come together in a coordinated, safe, and cohesive response in the event of wildfire that spans two or more jurisdictions. This presentation facilitated a critical look at the conversations that are taking place among land agencies and other jurisdictions when fires are not burning. Specifically, we asked the questions: are the right people having the right conversations? What conversations are we not having that we need to be having? Are we talking to the right people?

After this presentation, the Fire Chasers provided a handout for participants to recap what was just discussed.

Presentation #3: Models of Co-Management

By. Dr. Anne-Lise Velez, Virginia Tech

Co-management is of increasing importance in wildfire response, as the concept is framed as an important pathway to more cohesive fire management strategy in the national policy discussion. But, it is unclear how actors affected by wildfires conceive of co-management on multi-jurisdictional events. In examining co-management aspects of network governance during 10 of the most complex multi-jurisdictional 2017 wildfires in the US, we found differing conceptions of co-management among actors in the response network, highlighting the need for a grounded understanding of how people conceive co-management in multi-jurisdictional spaces. Many report being unfamiliar with co-management in a wildfire context. For others, the focus tended to be on structural aspects of co-management, co-management as outcome based, or a blend of the two. Respondents describing co-management as either structural or outcome based had two descriptions that were mutually exclusive: one commander and one direction. This is important because people with these lenses on co-management see it as being one thing or the other, not both. One commander emphasizes the importance of having a single decision-maker, with clear authority as enabled by ICS. Should mission objectives come into conflict in this model, the commander is responsible for hearing different opinions and weighing them to come up with a strategy. One direction models emphasize the need for consultation and agreement among affected agencies so that they may give a clear leaders intent to the IMT. Differences in conceptions of co-management matter because they have implications for how to best communicate expectations for co-management structures like unified command or joint delegation of authority, as well as, implications for those managing and coordinating response networks, as different actors may have different expectations for co-management. This may suggest different approaches to network governance can be used to encourage processes.