In many of the places where we work, fire can be a conservation threat, a natural and even necessary ecological process, and an irreplaceable, life-sustaining tool for rural communities. Where the fire-related needs of ecosystems and people are at odds, The Nature Conservancy has found that it is possible to reconcile these needs through a framework called Integrated Fire Management.
Although Integrated Fire Management is not a new term, IFM — as it is defined by the Conservancy (see definition below) — is a scale-able framework that works in places with fire-dependent ecosystems as well as places with fire-sensitive ecosystems. Its effectiveness is not dependent on a country’s development status. The Nature Conservancy uses this framework to address fire-related conservation threats at global, national, regional and local scales.
The first step of Integrated Fire Management includes identifying potential environmental, social and economic benefits and consequences of fire. When used at a local scale, this information helps communities decide how, when and where fire will occur on the land.
Integrated Fire Management Framework
Integrated Fire Management is defined as an approach to addressing the problems and issues posed by both damaging and beneficial fires within the context of the natural environments and socio-economic systems in which they occur, by evaluating and balancing the relative risks posed by fire with the beneficial or necessary ecological and economic roles that it may play in a given conservation area, landscape or region.
Integrated Fire Management helps communities find cost-effective approaches to preventing damaging fires, as well as maintaining desirable fire regimes. When fires do occur, Integrated Fire Management provides a framework for:
- evaluating whether the effects will be detrimental, beneficial or benign;
- weighing relative benefits and risks of different scenarios; and
- responding appropriately based on stated objectives.
Components of Integrated Fire Management
- Assessment and analysis of situation and issues
- Fire management goals and desired ecosystem condition
- Laws, policy and institutional framework
- Prevention and education
- Fire use
- Preparedness and response
Restoration, recovery and maintenance
- Adaptive management, research and information transfer