Fire Free Alliance partners committed during a fire season workshop in Pekanbaru, Riau, last month to the continued development of tools to assist in the implementation of fire prevention programs. (Photo courtesy of APRIL)

Fire Free Alliance Collaborates With Industry, Civil Society to Advance Fire Prevention in Sumatra

SEPTEMBER 04, 2019

Jakarta. Members of the Fire Free Alliance, a voluntary multi-stakeholder group set up to address the persistent issue of fire and haze arising from the burning of land in Indonesia, are boosting their efforts to support government-led fire prevention efforts in Sumatra, amid reports of increasing numbers of fires in the region.

Members of the FFA, which was established in March 2016, include Wilmar, Musim Mas, Asian Agri, IOI, Sime Darby, PM Haze, IDH and the APRIL Group, which collaborate and share knowledge and information on fire prevention through community engagement, pioneered by APRIL's Fire Free Village Program.

Recent efforts by FFA partners have significantly reduced the number of fires and the impact of smoke haze on children, the elderly and other vulnerable members of society. In its most recent annual report, the FFA highlighted an increase in the number of communities engaged in fire prevention activity to 468 in 2017 from 416 in 2016, and a 24 percent rise in awareness-raising activities by FFA partners. 

During a fire season workshop in Pekanbaru, Riau, last month, FFA partners committed to the continued development of tools to assist in the implementation of fire prevention programs, as well as to increase training for personnel using the Incident Command System, an international standard for fire incident response and management.

During the workshop, FFA partners were briefed by representatives of the National Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) and National Meteorological Agency (BMKG) on the current dry phase caused by the Indian Ocean Dipole – an irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures originating in the Indian Ocean. This has been resulting in lower than normal rainfall in Riau Province during the July-September dry season. 

"Extended dry periods have traditionally been accompanied by an increase in burning for agricultural land clearance," said Craig Tribolet, sustainability operations manager and the APRIL Group and current chairman of the FFA.

"We've seen this reoccur in recent weeks, heightening the need for collective action," Tribolet said.

"In 2015, we were able to minimize the amount of land damaged by fire through education and capability building in villages with a history of burning. Though the sharing of knowledge and best practices in fire management and prevention, the FFA can extend this approach to other landscapes," he added.

The recent workshop in Pekanbaru is part of the FFA's commitment to openly share knowledge and develop fire prevention capabilities across industries and among government and nongovernment partners.

"As part of our landscape approach and to support the government's program, we're already involved in a number of fire management initiatives, such as the Fire Prevention Program we run in Jambi and West Kalimantan," said Fitrian Ardiansyah, executive chairman of the Green Trade Initiative Foundation (YIDH).

"The value of the FFA is that it helps scale up fire prevention programs on a regional basis and this is essential for addressing the outbreak of fires and hot spots in Indonesia," he added.

Musim Mas, another FFA partner, runs its own dedicated Fire Free Village Program in Indonesia. Since 2016, the company has signed agreements with 71 villages covering approximately 500,000 hectares – about twice the size of the company's concession areas. 

"Like other companies in the FFA, we work to promote awareness among communities of the negative impacts of using fire, and of alternative methods of clearing fire. We believe the FFA has a crucial role to play in supporting fire prevention, in terms of sharing resources and best practices between the public and private sectors, especially at the present time," said Olivier Tichit, sustainable supply chain director at Musim Mas.

Also attending the workshop were executives of Fireground, an Australian consultancy that provides planning and training services on fire prevention and emergency management, who gave an overview of best practices for the Incident Command System.

"We train APRIL's teams in emergency response management and procedures, and now welcome the opportunity to share updates on best practices with FFA partners," said Dave Hitchcock, chief executive of Fireground. "It's only by sharing knowledge and expertise that the different public and private sector actors will be able to achieve lasting solutions to the fire and haze situation in Riau and Sumatra." 

Fire prevention is widely recognized as the most effective solution for reducing the impact of landscape fires, APRIL's Tribolet said. "But fire prevention is part of a broader fire management framework, which includes preparation, suppression and recovery. Ultimately, we're looking to coordinate activities with other FFA partners, so we can effectively support the government's fire relief initiatives in Sumatra and in other parts of Indonesia."

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