Alaskans were paying close attention in 2016 when a spring firestorm called Horse River burned over a Fairbanks-sized Alberta town resulting in unprecedented evacuation of 90,000 people with insurable losses over $3.77 billion so far. The disaster even had a negative impact on Canada’s National GDP–at 1.5 million acres it was the 3rd largest fire in Canada’s history. What have we learned from this catastrophic fire and can we co-exist with fire? Fire researcher Mike Flannigan, and Alberta’s fire science and prevention officer Cordy Tymstra teamed up on an important webinar for the AFSC last fall (watch it on our AFSC Vimeo Channel). Mike gave us a lot of additional insights into fire ecology: like the number of fires in Canada has doubled since the 1970’s, and spring fires are becoming increasingly important. Cordy provided intimate “behind-the-scenes” looks into decision-making and the challenges faced by fire managers. On May 5th, for example, the fire’s rate of spread was estimated at 2.86 km/hr (0.8 m/sec). The pyrocumulus clouds that developed deposited firebrands up to 35 km ahead of the main fire. Half of the discussion focused on recommendations from the after-action review: for example, Alberta moved their official fire season start up to March 1. They are going to review Incident Commander qualifications for WUI incidents and work on more ICS training for municipal cooperators. And they are going to ramp up their provincial FireSmart program. These are just a few. Watch the presentation: it will be an hour well-spent.
Feb 8 2018