Forest Fire

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forest fireWe have to assume responsibility for the forest that surrounds us and for the area adjacent to our homes. Partners in Protection's FireSmart: Protecting Your Community From Wildfire is an interactive manual providing individuals with the necessary tools in planning and in mitigating the risk of fire in interface areas. The manual is available for download on this Web site:

It is a very good read and provides real alternatives.

Note: Although Sustainable Resource Development claim the FireSmart program calls for clear-cutting the forest - it doesn't.

The wildland/urban interface is any area where industrial or agricultural installations, recreational developments, or homes are mingled with flammable natural vegetation. The wildland/urban interface fire problem stems from two different sources of fire and their impacton the community. Fires can move from forest, bush, or grassland areas into the community or from the community into adjacent wildlands.

August 1998 – Salmon Arm,B.C.
The Silver Creek fire near Salmon Arm,B.C., was ignited on July 29 by lightning and eluded extensive control efforts for an entire week before high winds caused it to blow up and spread, threatening Salmon Arm. When the smoke finally cleared:
• More than 40 buildings had been destroyed.
• More than 7,000 people had been evacuated.
• Suppression costs exceeded $10 million.

Lightning started the fire on the afternoon of July 29,1998 – a hot and dry day. Forest Service air tankers immediately took action to contain the fire. Over the next seven days, the fire defied the control efforts of over 136 firefighters, 17 helicopters, 48 pieces of heavy equipment and numerous air tanker drops.

Most researchers now agree that fire suppression is unfavorably altering many forest and grassland areas. Forests are becoming older, more closed in, and laden with fuels. Open habitats are disappearing and some plant and animal species are on the decline.

To be successful, interface stakeholders must implement a combination of appropriate activities to raise awareness, reduce hazards, and plan for fire occurrences.

Fire behavior is the way that fire ignites and spreads. Fire behavior is controlled by the three elements of the fire environment: fuel, weather, and topography. Of these factors, fuel is the only one that can be managed.

Three types of fire

Ground fires creep through the duff layer (organic soil) and decaying woody material beneath the forest floor. They are persistent, slow burning and difficult to detect and to extinguish.
Surface fires burn needles, twigs, branches on the forest floor, young trees, and the lower branches of standing timber. Surface fires are spread more quickly by wind.
Crown fires burn in the upper foliage and branches, as well as in surface and ground fuels. Crown fire occurs when high-intensity surface fire spreads or“ladders” upward through lower foliage into the canopy above. Driven by wind or influenced by upper-atmosphere disturbances, crown fires travel quickly, and are difficult to control.

There are two principal ways that buildings can be ignited by wildfire. First, wildland fires produce firebrands that are lofted into the air and travel great distances, often igniting spot fires ahead of the main fire. Second, direct flame contact or radiant heat can ignite vulnerable buildings.

Recent research shows that the most effective way to reduce interface fire hazards is to construct buildings and treat vegetation within 30 metres of buildings in compliance with FireSmart guidelines.

Strategies to minimize wildfire threat potential and mitigate the larger high intensity fires, include:
- reducing fire behavior potential,
- reducing fire occurrence risk,
- reducing the threat to values at risk,
- enhancing suppression capability,
- and enhancing opportunities for prescribed burning.

How to deal with the threat

  • adopt the FireSmart program

  • remove trees within 10 metres of our homes

  • thin the trees

  • cut fire break barriers

  • develop prevention and management plans to respond to the inevitable fires that occur.