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From the Forest Fire Commission meeting in Slovenia, May 2024.
05 Jun 2024

"Wildfires Have Unfortunately Become a Part of Our Lives" - The CTIF Forest Fire Commission exchanged Lessons Learned in Slovenia

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Command carOrganizations in the field of protection and rescue are constantly facing challenges on how to prevent and effectively tackle wildfires. To this end, a significant meeting of the CTIF Forest Fire Commission was held in Postojna on May 15 and 16, organized by the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia and the National Committee of CTIF Slovenia. 

 

Video & Photos: (Above): Luka Kotni

 

At the meeting, commission members from 15 countries learned about the organization of firefighters in Slovenia, the peculiarities of Slovenian forests, the issue of unexploded ordnance, the Police Aviation Unit, and exchanged experiences from the fire season, preparations for it, and examples of best practices from different countries. 

They also visited local firefighting units, where such fires are more common in Slovenia. At the Postojna Volunteer Fire Department, they viewed the fire station and equipment, and in Sežana, they met with the ZGRS Sežana unit, their vehicles, forest fire equipment, and the command vehicle for major incidents. They also visited GB Ljubljana to familiarize themselves with their operations and equipment. 

 

The text continues below, after the video and the photo gallery!  Link to the full gallery of photos

VIDEO: Watch members of the Forest Fire Commission, CTIF President Milan Dubravac and others talk about the work of CTIF to work together across borders to improve forest fire fighting. 

The Forest Fire Commission meeting in Slovenia, 2024. Zvonko Glažar, Commander of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia, believes that such meetings are crucial for exchanging experiences, as they hosted participants from countries with similar forest fire challenges and potential known solutions. "The exchange of experiences showed that science and digitalization are strongly present in this field. This area is important for easier determination of the fire's size, followed by appropriate firefighting tactics and the use of suitable techniques.

"The attending countries are similar to us in terms of ecosystem and firefighting organization." He emphasizes that Slovenia, with its knowledge, can stand alongside the largest European countries in the field of wildfires: "

In the introductory part of the two-day meeting, Slovenia presented the extensive organization of Slovenian volunteer and professional firefighting, along with their knowledge and experience. 

"Slovenia has extensive experience, having witnessed escalating natural events in recent years. We shared our experiences and knowledge and listened to the participants' suggestions." 

The deepening of knowledge and further discussion on forest fires continued locally with the session and training of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia's Command, on May 17 and 18, 2024, in Sežana. 

"The CTIF Forest Fire Commission is very important for Slovenia as it provides insights into countries with the largest fires, such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece, their problems, and how they solve them. The meeting brings cooperation and joint solutions", says Marko Adamič, Deputy Commander of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia, President of the Forest Fire Commission of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia, and member of the CTIF Forest Fire Commission.

 

Lessons Learned from the 2022 Kras fire in Slovenia

A standout at the Commission's meeting was a lecture by the Slovenia Forest Service on types of forests, issues with their management, and handling forest fires. The presentation on unexploded ordnance, although present elsewhere, drew great interest, as it is not as prominent elsewhere as it was in the Kras fire in 2022

"A crucial and interesting topic is the collaboration of air forces and how we will further develop it. We know that technique is very important, but without firefighters, the technique is ineffective; the infantry will ultimately resolve the situation." 

These meetings, in cooperation with firefighting organizations, are prepared by the International Association of Fire and Rescue Services (CTIF). Its main goal is to support and promote cooperation among firefighting and other emergency services worldwide. The organization was founded in 1900 in Paris. It currently has 39 member countries, mostly from Europe, but also from other countries such as Japan, South Korea, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. Many other member organizations and committees or working groups also cooperate with CTIF. It is currently chaired by Slovenian representative Milan Dubravac, and the office has been managed by the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia since 2017, which has been a member since 1992.

Milan Dubravac, President of CTIF, highlighted the importance of the discussed topic at the meeting: 

"Wildfires are currently the most important topic for firefighting worldwide. Due to climate change, there are numerous major forest fires, so I think the professional commission's decision to organize the meeting in Slovenia has positively influenced the further development of the field here." 

On tactical approaches to firefighting, he states that there are some common general guidelines that depend on resources and the size of the country, types of fires, and firefighting organization: 

"It mainly involves coordination between ground and air forces; some countries have well-developed air forces and weaker ground forces, while in others it is the opposite. With this in mind, we also established an air unit in Slovenia, so we can start implementing this coordination correctly in the future. However, due to climate change, the intensity, form, and development of fires are changing slightly, and with such international meetings, sharing experiences and achievements in knowledge can further enhance our system," he said.

 

The FFC of the CTIF meets twice a year. The spring meeting took place in Postojna with 25 representatives from 14 nations. Dr Ulrich Cimolino (Chairman of the Forest Fire Working Group) attended on behalf of the DFV.

The meeting was attended by Janko Cerkvenik, President of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia, Zvonko Glažar, Commander of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia, Dr. Janja Kramer Stajnko, Deputy President of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia, Milan Dubravac, President of the international CTIF organization, Marko Adamič, Deputy Commander of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia, President of the Forest Fire Commission of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia and member of the CTIF Forest Fire Commission, and Anže Bitenc, Assistant Commander of the Firefighters' Association of Slovenia for professional training and member of the CTIF Forest Fire Commission.

The managers from both the CTIF and the firefighters' association from Slovenia emphasized the need for increased cooperation, particularly in the area of vegetation firefighting.

In Slovenia, as in Germany, most fires are fought by volunteers. Every member of the fire service can take part in courses on vegetation firefighting. Civil protection and disaster control in Slovenia, on the other hand, is part of the Ministry of Defence and is organized centrally.

Slovenia provides rapid intervention units for international aid. Depending on the requirement or task, these are equipped with various components (e.g. as GFFF-V = forest firefighting with vehicles) and trained according to international standards (e.g. INSARAG or EU). 

Each unit consists of several modules. Each mission has its own communication and logistics module and at least one medical team (preferably with a doctor).
 

One of the main tasks here is to learn from each other. This means analyzing experiences more quickly, adapting tactics and training and using suitable technology. This is necessary because more and more missions require cross-national deployment.

It has been established that the differences in the modules within the EU are very large.
 

Overviews would help to assess performance here. Problems were reported regarding the usability of different radio devices in the various countries, which also corresponds to the German experience with digital radio in France, for example.
 

The deployment in North Macedonia in 2021 led to many experiences:
 

- PPE, first aid kits and respiratory protection need to be improved.
- The ability to work longer without support (self-sufficiency) and the possibilities for self help must be improved. This means setting up and equipping workshop teams in the logistics module, more command vehicles, hygiene (showers, toilets), supply of operating materials.
 

Pickups with various slide-in units can be used for logistics, as well as for direct firefighting and post-extinguishing work.
 

- Command, logistics and medical vehicles must have four-wheel drive if they are to be used off-road or in flooded areas, for example.

- Many local command vehicles have drones on board and can display images directly.

Command Car (Photo: Dr. Ulrich Cimolino)
 

- Communication (satellite telephony and data exchange) and orientation (GIS, GPS - also ‘on the man’) must be significantly improved and expanded.
 

- Training must be further improved and regular training organised.

- EU ‘visibility’ (in terms of awareness of the units and thus the frequency of requests) and
recognition (certification) must be improved.
 

The rotation of the operational forces for missions outside Slovenia takes place after 7 days
and is usually carried out by aeroplane.
 

Germany reported, among other things, on the work on training standards (via the open
national working group on national forest fire protection), joint exercises (e.g. Bavaria in
Lower Saxony), challenges in combating vegetation fires in the area of infrastructure or
buildings (Wildland Urban Interface). 

Ongoing research projects (e.g. the use of special extinguishing agents such as wetting agents or retardants as well as pollutants in fire smoke from vegetation fires) met with great interest. It was suggested that there should also be a
further exchange on structures in hazard prevention in order to learn from the experiences
of others.

Dr Cimolino, Germany is taking the lead in a small working group on the use of
suspected ammunition.
 

The next meeting is scheduled to take place in the Czech Republic in December.