Wildfire events in Canada continue to take a heavy toll on ecosystems, community health and safety, and the economy. Extreme events like the massive fire in Fort McMurray, AB, illustrate the devastating human, environmental, and economic impacts.
“As wildland fires become more frequent, larger, and costlier, FPInnovations is working to apply the unique firefighting expertise we’ve developed in Alberta, across Canada. There’s a lot of interest from other provinces in what we’re doing,” says Research Manager Dominik Roser. FPInnovations has the only wildfire operations research program in Canada with direct links to forest fire agencies and fireline operations. “This unique position reflects our long standing agency relationships, recognized leadership in wildfire operations, involvement in training, and a track record of producing results that provide insight for change and improvement.”
One of the key wildfire mitigation strategies advocated by FireSmart™ Canada is forest fuels ‘engineering, where fuel treatments are applied to modify fire behaviour and enable safer, more effective fire suppression operations. “In Alberta, our wildfire operations research focusses on community protection. Working with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, we test different fuel treatments on the ground under the most extreme conditions to determine their effectiveness,” says Research Leader Ray Ault. “Our research identifies better approaches that allow communities to invest in the most effective fuel treatments possible.”
Studies carried out in Alberta’s Red Earth Creek FireSmart research area and in the Northwest Territories are examples of the type of community protection in which FPInnovations is involved. In addition to testing fire behaviour using mulch treatments, a torch designed by FPInnovations was used to ignite fires, offering a safer, more efficient tool for burn operations of harvest debris. “These studies and technologies enable communities to develop better strategies at the planning stage to enhance community protection,” says Ault.
To learn more about this project, please contact Ray Ault, Research Leader in the Wildfire Operations group.
This article was originally published in the 2016-2017 IMPACT magazine.