Community-based Fire Management

About Community-based Fire Management

Strengthening community-based solutions for managing wildfire for healthy, biodiverse, and resilient landscapes in the Asia-Pacific region

At a glance 

  • Two-year project launched 1 October 2022 and ending 30 September 2024  
  • Addresses the root causes of forest fires and responds to growing national and regional concerns about fire impact on the environment and public health 
  • Builds the capacity of communities and governments to manage forest fires and adapt to climate change in landscapes in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam 
  • Supported and implemented through a five-year regional cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and RECOFTC 

The Community-based Fire Management (CBFiM) project is helping communities and governments in the Asia-Pacific region reduce the frequency and intensity of forest fires and build resilience to climate change by building capacity, promoting appropriate technologies and facilitating knowledge-sharing between stakeholders.

RECOFTC, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, is working with a variety of partners in biodiversity-rich countries in the Asia-Pacific region, starting with sites in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. Specific sites chosen for the project area are based on the history of fire-threatened landscapes, community needs, land use and ecosystem type.


Map showing four countries of CBFiM project engagement – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam


About the approach 

Community-based fire management as an approach involves communities in decision-making, draws upon their local knowledge and prepares them to prevent, help control and utilize fires. This approach to fire management empowers forest communities to make decisions based on their needs and to define their objectives and practices within a larger context of integrated fire management.  

The project builds on RECOFTC’s experience with community forestry. Community forestry is a broad term for approaches that empower people to manage, protect and benefit from a local forest, which their community may have relied upon for generations. 

Forest communities traditionally use fire in many beneficial ways, such as to control weeds, pests and diseases and to generate income from non-timber forest products. But, through human error or other factors, most harmful fires are caused by people. Because forest communities often rely largely on forest landscapes for food and livelihoods and remain most vulnerable to harmful fires, they are also the best managers of forest fires.  

Why the project is important for the region 

Extreme forest fires are threatening human health by poisoning the air we breathe and destroying forests that sustain local livelihoods and biodiversity. The number of forest fires in the region is increasing and their size and intensity escalating. The crisis is driven by climate change and land-use change. The UN Environment Programme predicts a global increase in extreme fires of up to 14 per cent by 2030, 30 per cent by the end of 2050 and 50 per cent by the end of the century. 

Because climate change is likely to further increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires, the need for solutions is urgent. The transboundary impact of smoke and haze from fires shows us the severity and scope of this global issue. Environmental degradation and worsening public health are among the many negative impacts of longer and more frequent fire seasons. Smoke and haze from forest fires have devastating effects on people’s health such as escalating rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease and increasing hospital admittance during fire season. Research tells us that people-centred, community-based approaches are proving to be effective. 

Many of the communities RECOFTC works with are at high risk of fire and provide ideal settings for piloting community-based approaches to fire management that can be scaled up across the lower Mekong region. Communities are involved in all stages of the project to empower them to use their knowledge and ensure that the policies, plans and practices reflect and are supportive of their ways of life. In addition, we emphasize the equitable inclusion of women, youth and other marginalized groups. 

Main activities of the project 

CBFiM addresses the root causes of forest fires and their socio-ecological consequence. Activities are designed to respond to the needs and challenges of countries, provinces and communities.  

The project will:  

  1. Strengthen community-based fire management policy, planning and practice  
  2. Promote community-responsive development and use of technologies 
  3. Facilitate knowledge sharing to improve forest fire management policy and practice 

Strengthening community-based fire management policy, planning and practice 

We are strengthening community-based fire management policy, planning and practice and ensuring they are well-integrated among local, provincial and national government structures. First, we are using multistakeholder and participatory processes to assess policies, practices, stakeholder awareness, capacities and priorities. Then, we are building capacity for the collaborative development and implementation of community-based fire management plans. These plans can involve many kinds of forest and fire management methods including monitoring, patrolling, fire breaks, weeding, silviculture, forest restoration and assisted natural generation. Communities are involved at all stages to tap their knowledge and ensure that the policies, plans and practices reflect and are supportive of their ways of life. In all this work we emphasize the equitable inclusion of women, youth and other marginalized groups. 

Promoting community-responsive development and use of technologies 

We are working to ensure that tools and technologies are shaped by the needs and experiences of communities and are widely used to support forest fire management. This involves assessing the tools and technologies that communities are using or could potentially utilise to manage fire and to collect and access data and information. We facilitate connections between technology developers and communities to ensure communities are aware of digital technologies that can help them manage forest fires. These connections also enable developers to gain a greater understanding of community needs and interests. For example, developers may not understand that communities need mobile applications in local languages to assess and warn them about fire and fire risks. We also help to train communities to use new tools and technologies.  

Facilitating knowledge sharing to improve forest fire management policy and practice 

In Southeast Asia, fire is a transboundary problem: fire-driven smoke, haze and landscape destruction do not respect national boundaries. That is why solutions to the escalating threat of fire must be transboundary as well. We engage communities, levels of government within countries, regional organizations of the lower Mekong region, ASEAN and global institutions that provide crucial data and information. By sharing best practices across all boundaries, we can learn from each other. And by sharing data, information and analysis at all levels, we can improve both forecasting and learning.  

Through this project, we are documenting and demonstrating best practices and helping communities and governments to share their innovations widely through their networks, as well as RECOFTC’s learning and training initiatives. An important aspect of this work is understanding, valuing and sharing local knowledge and traditional practices that prevent fire. There is also a strong focus on engaging national, ASEAN and other policymakers to promote enabling policies and transboundary solutions. 


The project will run for two years, starting from 1 October 2022 and ends on 30 September 2024. 

Project partner 

The CBFiM Project is implemented through a five-year cooperative agreement between USDA Forest Service International Programs and RECOFTC. The project receives financial support from the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) of the Department of Defense, along with funding from USAID and the USDA Forest Service International Programs. 


Marina Tornorsam, Regional Project Coordinator, Community-based Fire Management,