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Forest Service provides disaster management trainings in southern African countries

An Incident Management Team working on putting down a small fire in South Africa.
An Incident Management Team working in South Africa. Photo courtesy of Etienne du Toit.

From April 24 to May 12, the International Programs office implemented 27 disaster mitigation courses in southern Africa countries in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. The courses covered various topics on the Incident Command System and National Incident Management System for over 200 trainees from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Twenty trainers—Forest Service employees and retirees, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation employees, New York Fire Department employees and South African colleagues—delivered the courses.

Since 2009, the Forest Service and OFDA have worked together to build the capacity of South African disaster responders with a focus on fire management. Since the program began, over 4,000 fire personnel have received training from the Forest Service in both South Africa and the United States. Some of the program’s early trainees are now acting as trainers in the region.

This trainings led to the creation of an elite firefighting team that, in 2015, was deployed to Canada to assist with international firefighting efforts. South African Incident Management Teams have also assisted with flooding in Malawi and Mozambique and wildfires in Indonesia and Chile.

In 2014, the program broadened to encompass all-hazard emergency preparedness and expanded to two more countries in southern Africa: Namibia and Botswana. The most recent trainings reflects this expansion.