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Featured Speakers

Felipe Gonzalez

Former Spanish Prime Minister (1982 - 1996)

Felipe Gonzalez is one of the key political figures in the history of Spain in the second half of the twentieth century. A leading player in the democratic transition, he was the third president of the Spanish government since its reinstatement in the late 1970s and has been the longest-time president (four legislatures in thirteen and a half years).

The modernization of Spain and its complete integration into the European concert took place in its years of government, between 1982 and 1996. Although he is currently retired from the political profession, the former president remains active in various current focuses at European and Latin American level.

Born in Seville in 1942, he is the father of three children and grandfather of eight grandchildren. He was married from 1969 to 2008 to Carmen Romero López and is currently married to Mar García-Vaquero Vela in second marriages since 2012. Fond of the good table, he loves cooking and photography. His devotion to nature and the cultivation of bonsai is known, although not so much another of his passions: the design of jewelry and furniture. He relaxes with a game of billiards, a good book or working and carving stones, as well as being recognized as a hard-working reader and flamenco enthusiast. With curiosity intact, he continues to keep alive his eagerness to know everything.

Felipe González, página web oficial del expresidente del Gobierno español (

Felipe Gonzalez

Fires and Storms and COVID, Oh My!

Jennifer Symonds, D.O.
Fire & Aviation Management Medical Officer
Fire Medical Qualifications Program Manager
USDA Forest Service

Besides responding to floods and tornadoes from massive storms, United States federal agencies that also respond to wildfires had to react to the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus just as the time of year when wildfire numbers typically increase drew near. Bringing hundreds to thousands of resources from across the nation to a single fire camp with the threat of being a COVID-19 super-spreader event, the agencies had to creatively think of ways to modify these camps. 

The Federal Fire Management Board created a team of individuals to provide evidence-based guidance and called it the Medical and Public Health Advisory Team, or MPHAT. The team includes medical officers from various agencies as well as federal public health specialists familiar with wildfire response. 

This team’s job was to supply data-driven advice and instruction to the agencies on how to prevent infection with, as well as spread of, the virus. Team members also provided guidance on how to reduce common fire issues that would increase the risk of a poor outcome if fire personnel were to become infected. 

I attended calls or virtual meetings to supply updates on what guidance was coming out from the Centers for Disease Control in somewhat real time. As the year drew to a close, part of my job became discussing vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 and encouraging employees to receive the vaccine while giving real-time updates on what fully vaccinated individuals can or cannot do.

Dr. Symonds graduated from Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1994. She completed a residency in Family Medicine and holds a board certification in Urgent Care Medicine. She had worked in Urgent Care Centers practicing Urgent Care Medicine and Occupational Medicine until 2013 when she accepted the position of Medical Officer for the USDA Forest Service, Fire and Aviation Management. Dr. Symonds oversees the medical qualification of all Forest Service fire staff that have fitness qualifications. Dr. Symonds was part of the implementation working group that created, in conjunction with the National Park Service, the Interagency EMS Program (NPS and FS). She is a member of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s Emergency Medical Committee that provides national leadership and establishes standards that support rapid delivery of high-quality emergency medical services on national interagency wildland fire incidents. In 2020 with the advent of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, she became a member of the Federal Wildfire Fire Management Board’s Medical and Public Health Advisory Team putting out guidance on how agencies should attempt to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 in the fire environment and camps.

Success and sacrificing decisions in the field; human performance and hindsight

Sidney Dekker, PhD
Professor and Director of the Safety Science Innovation Lab at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia

Dr. Dekker will run through how sacrificing decisions (while being tentative but decisive in the field) under uncertainty and resource constraints, how capacities in a team can help make things go well despite this, and how, in hindsight, we might avoid second-guessing firefighters’ sacrificing decisions under pressure, in part by being clear(er) about agreed decision criteria or “freedom in a frame’ upfront. 

Sidney Dekker (PhD Ohio State University, USA, 1996) is Professor and Director of the Safety Science Innovation Lab at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, and Professor at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at Delft University in the Netherlands.

Sidney has lived and worked in seven countries across four continents and won worldwide acclaim for his groundbreaking work in human factors and safety. He coined the term ‘Safety Differently’ in 2012, which has since turned into a global movement for change. It encourages organizations to declutter their bureaucracy and provide people freedom-in-a-frame to make things go well—and to offer compassion, restoration and learning when they don’t.

An avid piano player and pilot, he has been flying the Boeing 737 for an airline on the side. Sidney is bestselling author of, most recently: Compliance Capitalism; Foundations of Safety Science; The Safety Anarchist; The End of Heaven; Just Culture; Safety Differently; The Field Guide to Understanding ‘Human Error’; Second Victim; Drift into Failure; and Patient Safety. He has co-directed the documentaries ‘Safety Differently,’ 2017; ‘Just Culture,’ 2018, ‘The Complexity of Failure,’ 2018, and ‘Doing Safety Differently,’ 2019. His work has over 13,300 citations and an h-index of 50.

More at

Wildland Fire Management under COVID-19: Results of Two Global Surveys

Cathelijne Stoof, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Wageningen University, the Netherlands
Creator and leader of PyroLife Innovative Training Network on integrated fire management
Board of Directors International Association of Wildland Fire

This talk summarizes the results of two global surveys that were conducted at the start of the pandemic and in February 2020 to clarify implications of COVID-19 impacts on wildland fire management. These surveys were held to collate any plans, protocols or procedures to generate generic guidance for wildland fire professionals in developing and developed countries, and to stimulate sharing of best practices among agencies, regions and countries. Results of the two surveys allow comparison of expectations and lessons learned about fire management during the pandemic. Topics explored include COVID-19 effects on general fire management, sharing of resources, fire-suppression strategies, challenges and advantages of the new situation, and effects on training, readiness and recover. An important focus is the mental health and work-life balance, to provide guidance on any support that may be needed for wildland fire professionals in these challenging times.

To view the survey, visit 

Dr. Cathelijne Stoof is specialized in pyrogeography – the interdisciplinary study of the distribution and functioning of wildland fire. She is the national delegate of The Netherlands to the EU Expert Group of Forest Fires, an active science communicator, and founder and leader of the newly funded Innovative Training Network PyroLife, that trains 15 PhD candidates to become the our new generation of integrated fire management experts. PyroLife fosters knowledge transfer from southern Europe to temperate Europe, and from cross-risk approaches including water management to fire. It thereby combines how the North solves community problems with fire knowledge from the European South, with a strong focus on diversity in terms of interdisciplinarity, science-practice links, geography and gender. With this, PyroLife trains early career researchers people to understand fire, deal with uncertainty, communicate risks, and stimulate knowledge exchange to improve awareness and preparedness for current and future fire challenges.  

Link to PyroLife:

C. Stoof

The Power of Purpose

Dan Cable, PhD
Professor of Organisational Behaviour, London Business School

We will discuss why purpose is important to humans in the context of our neurological seeking systems. The seeking system creates the impulse to look for the effects of our actions, and extract meaning from our circumstances. When we follow the seeking system’s urges, it releases dopamine – a neurotransmitter linked to motivation and pleasure – that makes us enthusiastic, curious, and resilient. This is why purpose is so critical to leaders: it inspires employee commitment and resilience and helps people speak truth to power. Thus, purpose is particularly important when change, commitment, and creativity are necessary. Purpose also promotes health: when we don’t feel a sense of purpose, our immune cells are less effective, leading to earlier death. We will discuss how leaders can help people feel more purpose by enabling them to play to their strengths and innovate at work, and personalize their stories about purpose in their work.

Dan Cable is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School. Dan’s research and teaching focus on employee engagement, change, organizational culture, and leadership mindset. Dan is Shortlisted for the 2019 Thinkers50 Talent Award, and selected for the 2018 Thinkers50 Radar List. The Academy of Management has twice honored Dan with “Best article” awards, and The Academy of Management Perspectives ranked Dan in the “Top 25 most influential management scholars.”

Dan’s newest book is Exceptional, published September 2020. Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do appeared in 2018, and his first book was Change to Strange. He also has edited two books and published more than 50 articles in top scientific journals. His most recent research was published in Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, the Academy of Management Journal, and Administrative Science Quarterly. This research recently has been featured in the Economist, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, New York Times, and Business Week.

Dan’s clients include Amazon, BMW, Capital One, Deloitte, EY, Estee Lauder, Facebook, HSBC, Ikea, MetLife, NBC Universal, O2, Porsche Consulting, Prudential, PwC, Rabobank, Randstad, Roche, Sanofi, Siemens, and Twitter.


Joe Buffone

Director General of Emergency Management Australia (EMA)

Joe is the Director General of Emergency Management Australia (EMA). He has been with EMA since December 2016 and has held multiple roles within the organisation. As Director General, Joe is responsible for overseeing Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre, Coordination of Australian Government Disaster Assistance (non-financial), Physical Security for Australian Holders of High Office, Major Events Security and Commonwealth Disaster Recovery funding. 

Joe has more than 30 years’ experience in security and disaster management and has held a number of key senior positions.

Joe was recently deployed to Victoria to establish and lead the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre to coordinate the response to COVID outbreaks in the Aged Care sector. Joe led the centre for 3 months until the situation was stabilised and transitioned to recovery. 

Joe has held several senior executive positions over the past 15 years, such as Chief Officer of the Victorian Country Fire Authority, Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner Victoria, Deputy Emergency Services Commissioner, Victoria.

Joe has had direct involvement in coordinating and responding to major emergencies in Australia and internationally, at the Strategic, Operational and Tactical levels.  Some examples are; Leading the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre 2020, Black Summer 2019-20, Far North Queensland Floods 2018-19, Cyclone Debbie 2017, Tasmanian Bushfires 2016, Wye River Bushfires 2016, Nepal Earth Quake 2015, Somerton Building Waste Fire 2015, Hazelwood Mine Fire 2014. NSW Bushfires 2014, 2011 Victorian Floods, 2009 Black Saturday Fires in Victoria. Joe has also served in the Australian Defence Force.

Academic Qualifications: Masters of Business, Graduate Diploma in Disaster Management, Diploma in Security Management.


Keynote Panel: Recovery and revitalization of Indigenous (wild)fire futures

Indigenous Nations and territories worldwide have diverse relationships with fire that evolved through time. Today, however, they are increasingly affected by modern megafires with harmful and lasting impacts. While dominant narratives often describe Indigenous Peoples as vulnerable to wildfire, many Indigenous Nations are leading wildfire preparedness and recovery processes that are grounded in cultural and land-based health and wellbeing; these processes range from continuing or reintroducing cultural fire to adopting Indigenous FireSmart™ principles to planning and implementing eco-cultural restoration initiatives following wildfire events. Through these processes, Indigenous Nations are able to center their knowledge, language and traditions in support of cultural revitalization. However, many Indigenous Nations continue to face challenges in leading (wild)fire recovery and revitalization; this is particularly the case in settler-colonial countries, where modern fire and landscape management systems remain grounded within Western colonial and scientific frameworks. 

This keynote panel brings together Indigenous community leaders, fire practitioners and researchers from Australia, Canada and the United States to highlight examples of Indigenous-led revitalization and reflect on the changes needed to overcome the challenges that remain. Critically, this panel will discuss shifting the narrative away from vulnerability and toward the panelists’ vision of revitalized Indigenous-led (wild)fire futures.

Moderator: Amy Cardinal Christianson

Amy Cardinal Christianson is a Métis woman from the Cardinal/ Laboucane families of Treaty 8 territory. She is a Fire Research Scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, where her research program focuses on Indigenous fire stewardship, wildfire evacuations, and wildfire mitigation.

Brady Highway

Brady Highway belongs to the Asinīskāwitiniwak – the people of the rock. He is a father of two children, a Cree translator and life-long student of the land. Having grown up on the Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan, Brady learned how to respectfully interact with the environment and has been working in the field of environmental protection for over 25 years. Starting as a wildland firefighter, he moved to Yoho National Park to become the youngest Park Warden in Canada at the age of 18 and continued specialized work in wildfire management. He has held several positions including Initial Attack Crew Leader, Regional Duty Officer, Visitor Safety and Fire Operations Coordinator which offered many unique opportunities to work with Indigenous communities in their own traditional territories. After attending over 250 prescribed, wildland, and structural fires, he now leads a project on behalf of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative developing a national strategy for Indigenous Guardians entering this critical function of resource management. Brady’s passion and commitment to protect the land enters every aspect of his life, instilling values of respect and humility to his children, nieces and nephews who will be left to look after the land into the future.

Margo Robbins

Margo Robbins is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Cultural Fire Management Council (CFMC). She is one of the key planners and organizers of the Cultural Burn Training Exchange (TREX) that takes place on the Yurok Reservation twice a year. She is also a co-lead and advisor for the Indigenous People’s Burn Network.

Margo comes from the traditional Yurok village of Morek, and is an enrolled member of the Yurok Tribe. She gathers and prepares traditional food and medicine, is a basket weaver and regalia maker.

She is the Indian Education Director for the Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School district, a mom, and a grandma.

Bhiamie Williamson

Bhiamie Williamson

Research Associate and PhD Candidate, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University

Bhiamie Williamson is an Indigenous man from the Euahlayi people in north-west New South Wales, Australia. In 2014, Bhiamie graduated from the Australian National University (ANU) and in 2017 from the Masters of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Bhiamie also holds graduate certificates in Indigenous Governance from the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and Indigenous Trauma Care and Recovery Practice from the University of Wollongong. Bhiamie’s research areas include Indigenous land management, cultural burning, Indigenous peoples and disaster recovery and Indigenous men and masculinities.

Keynote Panel: Wildfire Leadership in Uncertain Times

In these volatile and complex times, we are being tested: longer fire seasons; managing through a pandemic; political disruption; and communities looking to their leaders to find a way forward. We need to look beyond traditional approaches and solutions for wildfire management. We need to think creatively and adaptively.

Join our expert global panel to hear how countries are moving forward in these dynamic times to improve safety of communities and fire personnel, including mental health. Communities, fire management organizations, academics and front-line fire managers should tune in to this unique and relevant discussion.

Euan Ferguson

Allyson Lardner

Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Forest & Fire Operations, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria, Australia

Photo of Reinard Geldenhuys, Manager: Emergency Services Overberg District Municipality
Reinard Geldenhuys
Manager, Emergency Services Overberg District Municipality Western Cape, South Africa
Ángela Iglesias Rodrigo

General Directorate of Biodiversity, Forests and Desertification, Ministry of Ecological Transition and Rural Development, Madrid, Spain

L. Kaili McCray, PhD, MPH, MHE
DOI Wildland Firefighter Medical Standards U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Wildland Fire
Boise, Idaho
Julie Tompa

Director Natural Resource Management Parks Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Peter F. Moore, PhD
Fire Management Specialist Forest Officer Fire Management Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nations
Bea Day
Incident commander Portland National Incident Management Organization USDA Forest Service
Murray Carter

Executive Director, Rural Fire Division, Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Western Australia

Lara Steil

Coordinator of the Department for Interagency and Burning Control, Brazilian National Center for prevention and fighting wildfires, Brazil