UBC team develops system to predict human-caused wildfires

Researchers tracked when forests went green to predict the most risky time for fires

A team of UBC forestry researchers say they have come up with a way to predict when human-caused wildfires are most likely to occur in the spring.

The team, lead by postdoctoral fellow Paul Pickell, used satellite images to track when forests begin to go green in the spring, and used the data to predict the risk of human-caused wildfires.

READ: After 70 days, B.C. state of emergency to end

Going back to the year 2000, they saw that their system was accurate to within 10 days by the end of March, including last year’s catastrophic fire in Fort McMurray.

“We found that the conditions were just right in the spring of 2016 to allow the Fort McMurray fire to spread rapidly to the surrounding leafless vegetation,” Pickell said in a news release Monday.

“This could be a really cost-effective tool for wildfire managers to help them determine where they should deploy their firefighting resources, and the early warning may be available for most forests before the start of the fire season.”

The research, published in Scientific Reports, says the “spring burning window” – which occurs between snow melting and when plants sprout new greenery – is the riskiest time for human-caused wildfires in B.C. and Alberta.

As people delve further and further into the forests, the report says, the chances that they will cause fires increase, as do the chances of those fires damaging communities.

VIDEO: Young parents’ dream turns to nightmare in wildfire

About 40 per cent of wildfires in B.C. have been caused by people over the past 10 years.

This year, nearly 50,000 people were evacuated from their homes as more than 1,200 fires burned up more than one million hectares of forests around the province.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Pulled cattle guards going back in place despite B.C. Interior First Nations moose hunt protest

Forests minister Donaldson and TNG Chief Alphonse discuss situation, agree on path forward, ministry says

UBCM passes historic resolution brought forth by CCRD

If the resolution is successfully realized, it will mean groundbreaking change for local governments

TNG block roads, question gov’t on moose hunt

Chief Joe Alphonse confirmed Thursday they’ve deactivated the Raven Lake Road and the Mackin Creek Road just before the Island Lake turnoff

Bella Coola RCMP appeal for public’s help in wake of suspicious fires

Four suspicious fires in the span of four months prompted local RCMP to bring in fire specialist

Municipal spending outpaces population growth 4-fold in B.C.: report

Canadian Federation of Independent Business has released its annual operational spending report

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill near Trail

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Family, friends of B.C murder victim want killer sent back to max security facility

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

B.C. VIEWS: Looking under the hood of ICBC’s war on crashes

Is our accident rate really soaring, or is it inefficiency?

B.C. tent city residents have three weeks to clear out: Supreme Court

Fire risk, criminal activity in neighbourhood cited as reasons for judgment

Coaches, players on Alberta university rugby team buckle up for the Broncos

16 people died when Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan

The Vatican ‘owes God an apology,’ activist says in letter to Pope Francis

Letter came after a report on sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses

Lions earn stunning 35-32 OT win over Ticats

Epic comeback lifts B.C. past Hamilton in CFL thriller

Most Read