US gov't provides course on wildfire management

April 19, 2013

A press conference was held on Friday morning, April 19, at the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture to announce an international workshop on the Prevention and Management of Wildland Fires, which will take place on April 22 at the Balatonoszod Government Compound. The workshop will involve 40 Hungarian participants and 20 experts from seven other countries from the region: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. Three members of the REC's Environmental Law Topic Area team will be among the participants.

EVER PREPARED: (L to R) Tsakapoulos Kounalakis, Illes and Bakondi don forestry caps following the press event. Photo: Zsolt Bauer

Over the past two years, Hungary's Ministry of Rural Development has organised training for environmental inspectors, attorneys prosecuting environmental crimes and others. The US government has provided support for five instructors from the US Forest Service and the International Association of Fire chiefs to travel to Hungary and lead the upcoming workshop. An official declaration of enthusiastic US support for the workshop and ongoing cooperation came at the press conference from US Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakapoulos Kounalakis. Also speaking at the press event were Zoltan Illes, Minister of State for Environmental Affairs, and Gyorgy Bakondi, head of the Directorate General of Disaster Management, part of the Hungarian Ministry of Interior.

The US Ambassador thanked the Hungarian government for the "organisation and vision" necessary for the workshop to take place.

Wildfires present a problem that is more serious than people generally realise, and they have occurred with increasing frequency in the past decades. Higher average temperatures and lower precipitation levels mean that wildland fires also burn with more ferocity and intensity. An estimated 22,000 wildfires burned in Hungary just in 2012, scorching 600 hectares and damaging 3,500 woodland areas. As for the region as a whole, the numbers are even more catastrophic: more than 45,000 fire events, 21,580 free-range vegetation fires, and more than 54,000 hectares burned.

As wildfires do not stop at national borders, international cooperation is necessary for their prevention and management. It is in this spirit that a cooperative international workshop has been developed. The course will also cover myriad other issues, such as technical equipment, rescue operations, organisation of logistics and fire examination. A major point of emphasis will be placed on practical implementation and operative cooperation between different organisations.