Ethiopia – This past April, devastating wildfires in several of Ethiopia’s National Parks highlighted the need for capacity building support for local firefighting crews to help them address wildland fire. The Simien fire was complex and burned 343 hectares over a week due to drought, high fuel loads, flammable species and steep topography of the area. Since the area does not typically burn, firefighters (Rangers and community members) were not prepared for this incident. To support the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority in preparation for future wildfires, the public affairs section of the U.S. Embassy – Addis Ababa’s hosted two specialists from the USDA Forest Service for a week-long engagement in late September. The trip was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Speaker Series program.
The Forest Service team included Billy Phillips, a wildland fire training specialist from the Northern Rockies Training Center in Missoula, Montana, and Brendan Manning, a disaster management advisor with the Forest Service International Programs office, who is based in Ethiopia. They delivered a series of sessions and presentations on community engagement in fire management around protected areas, fire coordination and overall response. They also provided recommendations to the international donor community for fire management support to the Government of Ethiopia. Further, the team facilitated a full-day training on best practices in safety, the Incident Command System, Fire Management Planning, and community engagement for protected area rangers and local leaders. Through a working-level meeting with EWCA staff Manning and Phillips learned about the current level of preparedness within the agency; they also shared an overview of the Incident Command System and USDA Forest Services’ Fire Management Planning practices.
Following the visit, Phillips and Manning provided an assessment report detailing their observations and recommendations to improve the wildfire response capacity within the country. The report will be shared with the government of Ethiopia and the international donor community to inform future planning and funding efforts. As a result of this engagement, the Forest Service was able to share valuable technical expertise and support to the government of Ethiopia’s efforts to enhance their capacity to respond to future wildland fires.