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Why is Canada on Fire?

Why is Canada on Fire?

Science News


The 2020 Dome Fire burned in Mojave National Preserve in 2020, killing many Joshua Trees. It is seen here crossing Cima Road on Sunday, August 16, exhibiting intense fire behavior. A BLM vehicle bars the road. Jacob Sohr – https://www.nps.gov/moja/learn/nature/dome-fire.htm

Much of America finds themselves suffocated by smoke. For many the sky feels apocalyptic!

Why is this happening? Environmentalists and the media will quickly point the finger at climate change. However, this is false. The reason lies in Canada’s stubborness towards controlled burns. A stubborness catalysed by the same environmentalists blaming climate change!

Personnel fighting a fire in Wyoming watch extreme fire behavior. Original caption, misattributed to the McKinney Fire in California: “Firefighters on the McKinney fire observe fire behavior on the mountain from a safe distance.” Unknown author – https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/photograph/8287/4/133525

So let’s dig deeper into Canada’s reluctantcy for controlled burns!

While the effectiveness of controlled burning is well-established. Nevertheless, a significant portion of Canadians, particularly those engaged in tourism, environmental conservation, and the timber industry, remain hesitant to intentionally set their forests alight. They see a loss of revenue and as a result, oppose necessary burns, that otherwise leave large swaths of forest vulnerable to massive fires.

“Many people give it verbal acknowledgment but there’s a lack of action from relevant authorities!”

Canada 35 bg 061904.jpg

Remarks Mark Heathcott, who managed controlled burns for Parks Canada for more than two decades until his retirement in 2007. He believes there’s a general lack of understanding regarding the benefits of fire. While no official records are kept by Natural Resources Canada regarding the frequency and geographic distribution of prescribed burns, Parks Canada schedules only a handful of burns per year. In addition, generally, all of them in the southern part of Alberta, spanning a total area of 13,982 hectares.

Similarly, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry only burns a small amount per year as well. However, the U.S., on the other hand, applies prescribed burns to roughly 3.25 million hectares per annum.

“We are far behind our American counterparts,” Heathcott admits.

The underlying idea of controlled burns is that forest fires are an inevitability. Thus, most forests in Canada have a natural fire cycle ranging from a decade to a century. Although the trigger could become something as random as a lightning strike. A controlled environment makes the combustion process safer for the trees. During his tenure at Banff National Park, Heathcott often functioned as “the burning boss”.

Heathcott’s team, consisting of four to five members, would devote months to evaluating a site and devising a comprehensive strategy for a controlled fire. They would delineate natural boundaries using streams, ridges, mountains or areas that had already been through a fire, or establish their own using heavy machinery. Once they got the go-ahead from the local community and weather conditions were ideal, they would wear fireproof overalls and venture into the forest to ignite the blaze either manually or through air-dropped capsules, setting fire to the preordained perimeter and allowing the fire to gradually move inward.

“We never take these plans lightly,” Heathcott emphasizes. “No one wants to lose control over a fire and have it rampage freely across the terrain.”

Prescribed burns are cost-effective and can protect human lives.

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Controlled burning of a field outside of Statesboro, Georgia, United States, in preparation for spring planting

Though the fires sometimes extend beyond the designated site. Buffer zones become enacted and emergency contingency plans are in place to handle such incidents.

After the fire stops spreading, forestry personnel keep tabs on the smoldering trees, a process that can last several months.

Once the flames become fully extinguished, the scorched area serves as a natural barrier to future wildfires. As a result, depriving future fires of their needed fuel.

The cost of carrying out a prescribed burn is up to $1,000 per hectare, Heathcott estimates. Moreover, a mere fraction compared to the financial damages resulting from an uncontrolled wildfire. The Fort McMurray fire from a few years back, for instance, inflicted a staggering $9 billion in damages. What will the fires of today cause?

File:Air tanker drops retardant on Fawn Fire (2021) near Redding CA.jpg
DescriptionEnglish: An air tanker drops fire retardant on the Fawn Fire near Redding, California, on September 24, 2021.
Date24 September 2021
Sourcehttps://www.flickr.com/photos/calfire/51524041501/in/album-72157719899011689/
AuthorCalifornia Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

However, the practice of controlled burning is seldom utilized in Canada!

Banff was the first national park in the country to perform a controlled burn back in 1983.

And ever since, national parks and provincial forestry departments in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario have only sporadically resorted to such measures. Indigenous communities practiced controlled burning for generations. Unfortunately, contemporary perspectives have led to the perception of fire as a force to be suppressed.

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Northern California fire crews start a backfire to stop the Poomacha fire from advancing westward.[49]

Dave Gill, who oversees forestry operations for the West Bank First Nations in the Okanagan Valley, B.C., asserts his community ideally should be carrying out controlled burns every 10 to 15 years, but liability regulations have made that impossible.

“Whenever we see a small fire, we extinguish it,” he says, “This ultimately leads to a catastrophic wildfire.”

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A prescribed burn in a Pinus nigra stand in Portugal

Why is Canada on Fire?

How did the Canadian wildfires start? A look at what’s driving the fires that covered the East Coast in smoke – CBS News

Why is eastern Canada burning — and when will the fires stop? – Vox

Canadian wildfires affecting parts of U.S.: What to know, where they are – The Washington Post

Canada Wildfire Tracker: Maps, Air Quality and Latest Smoke Forecast – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

The Canadian Forest Service (canada.ca)

NPS.gov Homepage (U.S. National Park Service)

Why is Canada on Fire?

The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near in California began on Aug. 17, 2013 and is under investigation. The fire has consumed approximately 149, 780 acres and is 15% contained. U.S. Forest Service photo.

The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near in California began on Aug. 17, 2013 and is under investigation. The fire has consumed approximately 149, 780 acres and is 15% contained. U.S. Forest Service photo.
Date17 August 2013, 00:00:00
SourceFlickr20130817-FS-UNK-0004
AuthorU.S. Department of Agriculture