Forest fires represent a major problem, directly affecting the environment, the economy and even threatening human lives. Recent scientific and technical advances in prevention, management and extinction are not enough to mitigate this complex phenomenon. Therefore, new approaches that integrate the whole of society, specially focusing the education of young people, are essential.
The application of innovative educational methodologies, such as Service-Learning (S-L), can play a key role. The main objective of our project “Service-Learning to improve training and employability in wildfire management” is to involve citizens in the problem of forest fires and, in this way, transfer scientific-technical knowledge and civic values to the population through educational strategies based on S-L.
Annually, Mediterranean countries are severely affected by wildfires and future climate perspectives are not encouraging. It is true that recent advances in fire prevention and forest restoration help to reduce the problem but fire effects on natural resources and local economy are still of large magnitude. Thus, technical approaches must be accompanied by environmental education.
Learning processes, from kindergarten to higher education, should go beyond knowledge collection to become a complete formative and transformative process. Education and training programs are necessary to address the problem of forest fires.
Facing Fire stems from a regional initiative led by the University of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, since 2016. In the time since, the project has evolved and expanded towards other regions in Spain and other European countries.
During the following years, academic, administrative, and local communities were actively involved in the PCL initiative: +60 university students and professors participated, +400 students and 30 teachers from high school, +15 local communities and NGOs and +10 forestry stakeholders and researchers.
Noteworthy, +30 university students were involved as active project leaders.
Since 2020, we have extended our action range to the Spanish national level (Plantando Cara al Fuego: REF: FCT-19-14381) and the European level (Erasmus+ project, REF: 020-1-ES01-KA203-083219) Currently, we are present in over 10 Spanish autonomous communities and 4 European countries.
Our Erasmus+ project Facing Fire, allows us to extend the S-L methodology towards the Mediterranean countries that have a higher fire incidence and recurrence, such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.