JAMAICA — The International Programs office, in partnership with and with funding from the United States Agency for International Development, organized a 10 day technical exchange mission to Jamaica on fire prevention and awareness. Fire Prevention Officer Olivia Rahman, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, was joined by two Bureau of Land Management fire mitigation and education specialists, Terina Goicoechea and Miriam Morrill, to help develop a community-level fire prevention strategy and awareness campaign targeting students, farmers and community groups in the Swift River watershed in Portland Parish on the northeast coast of Jamaica. The workshops were co-organized with USAID’s Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystem Adapting to Climate Change II (Ja REEACH II), a program that supports the communities in addressing threats to livelihoods and natural resources, one of which is fire.
During their time in country the group met with community members, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Forestry Department, representatives from the local 4-H branch, and the Rural Agriculture Development Authority, to understand the current fire situation in the watershed. The context gathered from these interactions was used to design and develop a watershed-level fire prevention/education plan and communication strategy for a public education and awareness campaign. The team facilitated a multi-day workshop with community leaders to transfer local capacity for implementation of the plan and strategy. The U.S. fire experts guided participants through the development of the plan, the creation of educational messages, and through delivering their implementation strategies to other members of their community. In addition, the team instructed a fire investigation course to members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, establishing the foundation for a more robust approach to initial response and fire investigations in the future, which will lead to more focused and effective fire prevention in the future.
This year Jamaica is experiencing an especially intense fire season. Most fires are human caused and linked to clearing of agricultural lands, making community education and awareness one of the most effective means of prevention.