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

Bill passes to make Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation statutory holiday

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad and CRD Area F director Joan Sorley were in Ottawa for the vote

Wally Webber elected to fourth term as Nuxalk Chief Councilor

Webber took the win with 174 votes out of a total of 389

Bella Coola expected to be hottest spot in B.C. today

Temperatures are predicted to rise to 18 C

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

IT’S OFFICIAL: Mt. Timothy sale complete

New owners looking toward year-round mountain resort facility

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

Search and rescue team helicopters injured climber from B.C. provincial park

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Trudeau calls May 6 byelection for B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith

The riding opened up when Sheila Malcolmson resigned in January

B.C. VIEWS: The hijacking of our education system gathers speed

Children taught to strike and shout fringe far-left demands

Judges on Twitter? Ethical guidance for those on the bench under review

Canadian judges involvement in community life are among issues under review

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

Most Read