The impact of COVID-19 on wildland fire management

COVID-19 will have major implications for wildland fire management this fire season, because of severe social distancing and hygiene requirements. We are collecting procedures and guidance created around the world to help prepare wildland fire professionals globally for fire management during this pandemic. By filling in this survey, you can help us keep people safe from COVID-19 while also keeping them safe from unwanted, damaging wildland fires.

By using existing groups and networks to discuss this issue, obtain input and collate ideas, it will be possible to more quickly establish the principles and options for adapting to the constraints and opportunities that COVID-19 is imposing.


To clarify the implications of COVID-19 restrictions on wildland fire management, map current thinking and collate any plans, protocols or procedures to prepare an initial list for consideration by those with the responsibility for fire management. We here define fire management as including the full disaster management cycle from risk reduction (prevention, mitigation) and readiness (preparedness, preparation), to response (suppression), recovery (restoration, rehabilitation) and review. 


If the agencies in countries work in isolation or internally on this issue they may take longer to get to the same set of ideas, overlook some ideas and/or prioritise less efficiently.


Wildland fire management professionals around the world in fire, land management and related agencies that fill policy, management, incident command or field roles and supporting specialists. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere and just coming out of the fire season, please read all questions in terms of what measures you have implemented, rather than will implement.


Results from this survey will be used to formulate guidance for wildland fire professionals around the world in developed and developing countries, in the form of a short report to support practitioners and a short English language scientific publication aimed at scientists. Both publications will be open access and freely available for use.


Please fill out this survey by 15 May (end of day). This time is short to allow rapid collation of results and publication of findings, hopefully by 4 May.

About us

Survey formulation: Peter Moore, Forestry Officer Fire Management, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN; Bethany Hannah, founder of the American Wildfire Experience and former US hotshot wildland firefighter; Cathelijne Stoof, Environmental Sciences Group Wageningen University, The Netherlands, creator and leader of PyroLife Innovative Training Network. Review: Jasper de Vries, Marijn Poortvliet, Jeroen Warner, social science, risk communication, disaster science, Wageningen University, the Netherlands.


This study has received no funding.

Background information

As the northern hemisphere has entered or will soon be entering its fire season, the requirements that have been put in place to deal with COVID-19 must be considered and procedures, standards and approaches adapted. Past practice and ‘normal’ will need to be reviewed and probably be adjusted. To make an inventory of the impact of COVID-19 on wildfire management we developed a survey.

The main focus of this survey is on wildfire suppression, but prevention (risk reduction) and training are included as there will be impacts on those activities since dealing with COVID-19 is likely to continue beyond the summer and will potentially limit the way all fire management operations are undertaken, including risk reduction and recovery.

Efforts put in place to deal with COVID-19 include:

  • Social distancing is to be practiced by all, including in work places that are allowed to remain open
  • Limiting the size of groups, in some cases to two people only
  • Gatherings of people are not permitted; the limits on numbers of people range from two to ten.
  • People are required to remain indoors, except for essential tasks – obtaining food, medical appointments, exercise
  • Schools, universities and day care centres are closed.

The COVID-19 mitigation measures affect operational and strategic elements of fire management that will probably require changes in the mode of how people will work and the tactics and strategies that can no longer be used, must be modified or completely replaced. This survey aims to create an overview of these changes. The questions were designed based on initial scoping and rapid consultation with a diverse group of international wildfire experts.