FireTreks was created to start a journey. Rainforests, deserts, volcanos, ice fields, salt flats, mountains, remote islands and condensed townships – FireTreks aims to investigate how fire safety is managed in such varied environments.
No tourists and absolutely no contact with work! This is generally my criteria for choosing my vacation spots and it’s what led me to Tajikistan. I awoke one morning with some trepidation at crossing the border into Afghanistan but feeling very pleased at being able to successfully lose myself in the world.
So, it was pretty mind-blowing that morning to meet three members of the UK fire service who I shared friends and associates with in the industry. What on earth were they doing here? And how dare they burst my travel bubble!
It turns out they were there to train local search and rescue teams in the mountainous Pamir region and having chewed off their ear it sparked an exchange on how far-reaching and important the topic of fire is throughout the world in all environments, not just the cityscapes that I have dedicated my career to over the past 11 years.
I have always loved fire engineering and been fascinated by all its nuances from the logical to the creative and the technical to the psychological. I’ve been involved in projects across the world, from bases both in London and Dubai, and have been lucky enough to work with brilliant engineers and innovative architects who have pushed the boundaries of creativity to really challenge the limits of engineering. Hotels in Azerbaijan, a hospital in Bermuda and super high-rises in Mumbai, from historic Westminster Palace and Gatwick Airport to the epic Dubai EXPO 2020 Sustainability Pavilion – a diverse range of exciting buildings adding a lot of variety to my career.
However, staring into the bright white lights of a computer screen, bloodshot eyes straining and phone buzzing about the ears like a mosquito you just can’t swat, maintaining the joy I started my career with has become more challenging. Motorbiking across Vietnam, learning how things are made, meeting people and truly roaming off the beaten track – this has filled me with joy. Staring into the depths of flaming gas craters in the heart of Turkmenistan – this has filled me with joy. Teetering on the edge of an active volcano in Ethiopia… well, you get the idea.
But returning to that sunny Tajiki morning, the lightbulb above my head, previously dimmed, was bright and happy with the realisation that I could learn from the rest of the world by leaving the office and finding those fascinating stories myself. How great would it be to go and meet the people/teams who were making a real difference in communities and discover how they are tackling issues of fire safety in their respective environments with the resources available to them.
Rather than escape from work, I could go out and embrace it, in the far-reaching corners of the world, away from the surroundings I’m familiar with, to rediscover that joy.
FireTreks is born
The journey begins in South America, a continent I know very little about, but which covers an incredible spectrum of environments. In its conceptual stages the idea was to simply write honest, unbiased stories focusing on individuals, historical events, new technologies, scientific analysis, social, economic and environmental issues that interested me, with the hope that others may also be interested. But having introduced the concept in the fire community, both in the UK and around the world, there has been a fantastic response and it is becoming apparent that FireTreks could also be a platform to share knowledge, raise awareness and open dialogue as well as connect people who otherwise may not have the resources to do so.
My experience in consultancy suggests that fire can often become stuck in archaic processes compared with other disciplines. Having a keen interest in new technologies, big data and processing information, I am fascinated to discover how the rest of the world is dealing with emerging technologies. In the short time I have been researching, I have found groundbreaking projects and feats of science and technology that could advance the way we manage many aspects of fire safety. But the big question is, how far is this data shared internationally if at all? Could we be doing more to ensure that lessons learnt in one place could be benefitting other regions to ensure a safer environment for all?
How can you help?
Prior to beginning the journey, the main focus for FireTreks has been to research potential subject matter and attempt to establish a good list of contacts across the South American region including firefighters, volunteers, geologists, scientists, engineers, historians, or in fact anyone with a story to tell that will highlight to the world the great work that’s being carried out in the uniqueness of individual communities and environments.
The following list of both specific and general topics is by no means exhaustive and I have no wish to restrict it in any way. It will inevitably evolve over time throughout the journey.
What are the environmental impacts of fire safety?
- Crisis response in volcanic and earthquake-prone regions
- Challenges faced in the Amazon, and other remote locations
- How are climate change and deforestation affecting the way fires are tackled?
- Fire safety in sub-zero conditions (crossing into the Antarctic)
How are new technologies and scientific analysis being used?
- Climate correlation – how are weather patterns predicting fires in the Amazon rainforest?
- How is fire-spread predicted through the rainforest?
- MAFFS aircrafts – how fires are tackled from the air?
- Research and development and knowledge sharing
What are the social and economic implications for fire safety?
- The history of firefighting in various locations
- Favela/township fire safety
- Community outreach and training
- Equipment donation
An analysis of previous fires in the regions and lessons learnt
Fire regulations and enforcement
What are the individual and personal stories?
- The life of a volunteer firefighter
- Women in fire
Perhaps you are reading this and know of a team or person doing incredible work in the fire-engineering field. Perhaps you have a contact in the deepest depths of the Amazon rainforest who may be able to show first-hand how wildfires are tackled. Perhaps you’ve been researching/studying fires in the region and would like to share your findings. Any suggested stories or contacts will be welcome. Please message me at www.firetreks.com/contact/.
For more information, go to www.firetreks.com