Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 May 2011
Wildfires are occurring with increasing frequency and extent in montane cloud forests (MCF) worldwide. Fires in MCF pose challenges with respect to both fire behavior and organization of suppression efforts that are often unique from other forest types. This chapter assesses the technical and organizational aspects involved in suppressing severe wildfires occurring in MCF in southern Mexico during the 1998 El Niño Southern Oscillation. In particular, it highlights the valuable lessons learned about fire suppression techniques for the extreme fire behavior observed for these MCF ecosystems (both subterranean and crown fires), and on approaches toward organizing fire suppression efforts and preventing fire occurrence that involve local community participation. Given the importance of human activities in driving fire dynamics in typically ever-wet MCF, it is suggested that integrating local community-based and external government-based fire management approaches is critical to effective fire protection and suppression in MCF regions. The chapter offers various specific recommendations for achieving such integration.
The perception that montane cloud forests (MCFs) are resistant to fire was shattered in 1998 when widespread fires occurred in these ecosystems throughout south-eastern Mexico. Although these fires were proclaimed to be unprecedented events – shocking and surprising the nation, reaching global news, and eliciting international response – they were by far not the first reports of fire in MCFs.