Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law

Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Susan C. Breau and Katja L.H. Samuel

International law’s role in governing disasters is undergoing a formative period in its development and reach, in parallel with concerted efforts by the international community to respond more effectively to the increasing number and intensity of disasters across the world. This Research Handbook examines a broad range of legal regimes directly and indirectly relevant to disaster prevention, mitigation and reconstruction across a spectrum of natural and manmade disasters, including armed conflict.

Chapter 16: The international law of wildfires

Michael Eburn

Subjects: environment, disasters, environmental governance and regulation, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, law and development, public international law, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation


This chapter reviews the developing international law of wildfire and considers legal obligations to mitigate the risk of fire as well as legal arrangements to facilitate international firefighting. The chapter identifies three factors that make international law particularly relevant to wildfire. First, wildfire through smoke and haze may impact states well beyond the immediate impact of the flame. Second, and only to a limited extent, firefighting resources may be used to control a fire or, if the fire is too large to control, to protect vulnerable assets. Third, conditions in one country can have a direct impact upon the vulnerability of another as fuel load can carry a fire across national boundaries. These features of wildfire mean that states may have a direct interest in how other states prepare for and respond to wildfires burning within their territory. The chapter concludes with some recommendations to further enhance international cooperation in responding to wildfires.

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