On her first trip to Bolivia in January, Jane Park hiked about 20 kilometres with national park rangers to a steep, distant area with endangered palm trees and the Andean, or spectacled, bear.
Much of the world in ANMI-El Palmar, one in every of the country’s protected areas, had been burned in a wildfire.
“A variety of areas where they’re fighting fires are extremely distant,” Park said in a recent interview from Banff, Alta.
Park, who’s on an unpaid leave from her regular job as a fireplace and vegetation specialist in Banff National Park, is one in every of two Alberta experts spending a few of their off-season helping the Bolivian government prepare for a rise in fires on account of climate change.
It’s a part of Global Affairs Canada’s technical assistance partnership, which allows Canadians from different backgrounds to share their expertise in other countries.
Park got here across the chance online and got the contract, which began with the trip to Bolivia in January to tour five of the country’s protected areas.
The trek to El Palmar, an integrated management natural area, was the identical route park rangers took when the fireplace began.
“It’s incredible,” said Park. “They walk enormous distances. They’re local people, they’re used to high elevation and so they are extremely fit.
“But in the event you imagine that even the fittest rangers take several hours to walk into a fireplace, the quantity of fireplace growth that might occur during that point after which the challenges that include fighting it without aircraft or without decent sources of water, it’s all of the more difficult.”
Park added that the rangers carry portable water bladder packs and use machetes to fight the fires.
“In Canada, we now have quick access to aircraft and water,” she said. “So, there are definitely some interesting and really difficult conditions that people must work with down there.
“We have now to be sure we’re tailoring what we’re training to their reality.”
Park, who returned to Bolivia this week, said she’s helping the environmental departments improve their management practices and construct capability to reply to those fires.
“That’s every thing from prevention, suppression, wildfire management, communication, monitoring.”
Bolivia’s protected areas have high biodiversity, but wildfires — on account of drought and longer fire seasons attributable to climate change — have threatened them.
Global Forest Watch says the country lost 1.6 million hectares of tree cover in fires from 2001 to 2021. Some studies have shown those wildfires are one in every of the best threats to endangered and threatened bird species.
Because the fires get longer, larger and more frequent, Park said more agencies are helping the park service — whether that’s community volunteers, fire brigades or the military.
“The park rangers, because they’re probably the most experienced, find yourself having to guide these folks that are possibly less experienced,” said Park. “They lack additional training in the right way to lead resources and lead individuals who may not have the identical level of experience as them.”
As Park helps to coach those rangers, one other Alberta expert is working with the Bolivian military.
Mike May, a senior wildfire specialist, said the military formed a task force that features members from the military, navy and air force to reply to emergencies in areas akin to the Bolivian Amazon.
May, who signed his contract as a “side hustle” along with his regular job, also visited Bolivia for per week in January to do a needs evaluation and is to return this month to supply the training.
“There’s not a number of funding available for them,” he said in an interview from Hinton, Alta. “They’ve some tools — possibly to not the extent that we in Canada do. We’re quite fortunate up here.”
May, who has previously provided his expertise in South Africa and Australia, said he’s to coach a bunch of military personnel are to then train the front-line soldiers to assist fight the fires.
“`The hope is… to begin them on the best path in order that they’re able to construct their wildfire program throughout the military,” he said.
May said he and Park recognized a necessity for some cross-agency training, which they may even provide.
“It’s all the time unique and interesting to find a way to go to different agencies and jurisdictions to see how they manage wildfires,” said May. “I even have little doubt I’ll find a way to take home some good lessons from Bolivia.”
He said he feels fortunate to get the chance and offer of his some expertise.
“We’re Canadians,” added May, “and we just wish to help people.”
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