Federal Actions Towards Building Wildland Fire Resilience in Canada

Federal Actions Towards Building Wildland Fire Resilience in Canada

A sponsored post by The Canadian Forest Service

Wildland fires are a uniquely devastating type of natural disaster — one with which Canadians and others around the world are all too familiar. Available science tells us that climate change is driving more frequent and more intense wildland fires. Annual national costs for fighting wildland fire total over $1 billion, additional costs averaging around $500 million or higher during extreme seasons. The risk is especially serious for remote and Indigenous communities across Canada. These are all stark reminders that the question is no longer whether we act… but how.

Given these realities, Canada recognizes the need to transform how we manage fire and wildland fire risk. The Government of Canada (GoC) is collaborating closely with provinces and territories under the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers to implement the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy. Together, we are working to accelerate progress towards national wildland fire and forest resilience in Canada.

Greater emphasis on prevention and mitigation is needed. In 2022, Ministers hosted the Canadian Dialogue on Wildland Fire and Forest Resilience, which brought together close to 100 participants from diverse sectors to identify priorities, needs and opportunities related to wildland fire prevention and mitigation. Outcomes of the dialogue will inform the development of a Canadian Wildland Fire Prevention and Mitigation Strategy, to mobilize whole-of-society action on wildland fire resilience. This will allow Canadians to be aware, engaged, prepared and actively participate in wildland fire reduction and accept fire where appropriate.

Science, data and innovation will be key. This is why the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) developed a Blueprint for Wildland Fire Science in Canada report, which presents recommendations to transform fire management and strengthen Canadian resilience to wildland fire through research, data and innovation.

The CFS has been involved in fire research for decades, working with partners across the country to increase the knowledge base about wildland fires and to improve the ability of authorities to predict and manage the risks. We are currently developing a Canadian Wildland Fire Information Framework, which will seamlessly produce, manage and share information on wildland fire across Canadian jurisdictions. This will ensure that information and tools are available for evidence-based decisions around risk mitigation and emergency response.

The Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System and its two foundational components, the Fire Weather Index and the Fire Behaviour Prediction System have been adopted around the world as models for helping countries understand their risk levels, including recent requests coming from Costa Rica, Malaysia and Switzerland. We are currently modernizing this system to ensure communities and fire agencies have the most current information to allow for faster response to fire threats.

Canada supports global approaches to fire management and welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with international partners. The GoC, in partnership with industry, provincial and territorial governments, will develop the world’s first purpose-built operational satellite system for monitoring wildfires: WildFireSat. WildFireSat will provide unprecedented, daily, near real-time strategic intelligence on all active wildfires, at a scale and scope previously not possible, when agencies need to make critical decisions on strategic preparedness and priorities. WildFireSat is the only public satellite monitoring system ever created to respond directly to the needs of, and in conjunction with, front line fire managers in Canada.

Mitigation and adaptation go hand in hand. To prevent these fires and mitigate their impact, we need to bring together a diverse range of perspectives. This why the GoC will be launching Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy, which is intended to establish a shared vision for climate resilience in Canada, identify key priorities for increased collaboration, and establish a framework for measuring progress at the national level. Wildland fire is just one of Canada’s climate adaptation needs. The strategy will help inform where the GoC should best target its policies, programs and investments going forward to make Canada more resilient to climate-driven hazards.

We should not underestimate the power of sharing experiences and this conference sets a great example. This includes recognizing the tremendous value of Indigenous knowledge and cultural practice with fire. There is also growing recognition that we need effective international collaboration to develop solutions to better manage risks and increase resiliency. Canada has a long history of active involvement in international wildland fire management collaboration. We will build upon existing international partnerships and networks to benefit Canadians and the global fire community.

To reduce the impacts of wildland fire, we must move to a prevention and mitigation culture, with whole-of-society engagement, education, and collaborative actions. CFS continues to conduct world-class research to inform public policy and support breakthrough solutions, we are proud to be sharing our research with you at the Wildfire Canada Conference 2022.

Michael Norton,

Director General
Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, Government of Canada

Aerial Fire Retardants: It’s Time for a Meaningful Change

Aerial Fire Retardants: It’s Time for a Meaningful Change

A sponsored post by Fortress

Long-term fire retardants have become an essential tool in the fight against wildfires, serving as a primary line of defense against fast moving fires and allowing ground crews to move into position to fortify fire defenses. Despite their importance, long-term retardants have seen very little innovation over the past 60 years. The exact recipe has seen some modifications, but the primary active ingredient from 60 years ago, ammonium phosphate, is still the same chemical that’s used in the vast majority of aerial drops today.

The 1954 Operation Firestop study and the 1970 Blakely study are often credited for establishing ammonium phosphate as the preferred fire retardant. Based on the formulations and standards used over five decades ago, it was shown to outperform its contemporaries on the basis of burn reduction. Until recently, the qualifications of ammonium phosphate were seldom debated and rarely challenged. However, chemical engineering has advanced significantly in the last 50 years. Solutions disregarded by Operation FireStop and Blakely, including magnesium chloride, can now be made exceptionally effective with modern material processing techniques and careful formulation.

Meaningful Change

Fortress is the first commercial long-term fire retardant to move away from ammonium phosphate. We chose magnesium chloride as our primary active ingredient because of its superior fire suppression capabilities, its exceptional durability, its natural abundance all around the world, and because it can be produced on an industrial scale and deployed in the field with minimal environmental impact.

The unique chemistry of magnesium chloride provides a thermally responsive, staged reaction scheme that hydrates fuels, cools the flame front, delays ignition, and disrupts combustion [1,2]. Together, these reactions make for stronger fire lines and superior fire control.

Due to their hygroscopic properties, magnesium chloride based fire retardants have greater rain resistance and remain effective for longer after they’re dropped. Magnesium chloride chemically binds and retains moisture, and has the unique advantage of re-hydrating every evening when humidity exceeds 33%. While magnesium chloride is highly effective when dry, the additional water that is adsorbed from the environment adds to its effectiveness and durability in the field.

Unlike ammonium phosphate, magnesium chloride is not a fertilizer; it does not contribute to invasive vegetation growth or eutrophication [3,4,5]. And to top it off, the magnesium chloride in Fortress products is sourced domestically and processed with natural sun and wind, drastically lowering the carbon footprint of retardant manufacturing [6,7].

Proven Performance

The Forest Service’s product qualification protocol is designed to test and establish confidence in new products, and is required to qualify new fire retardants for aerial use. Tests are either performed directly by the Forest Service at their Missoula Fire Sciences Lab or by third party contractors to eliminate the potential for any biases. Official testing has demonstrated the exceptional performance of Fortress fire retardants. In fact, our magnesium chloride formulations have outperformed their fertilizer-based counterparts on nearly every dimension. Fortress offers best-in-class burn reduction, best-in-class corrosion protection, and best-in-class aquatic toxicity.

Fortress now has four different retardant formulations that are fully qualified or interim qualified by the US Forest Service. Magnesium chloride is here to stay, and we urge industry leaders to seriously consider which chemicals we should be dropping from the skies. It’s time for a meaningful change in the technology that we use to fight wildfires.

Thank you for reading this article. If you would like to learn more about the environmental effects of long-term fire retardants, how Fortress achieved best-in-class corrosion protection, or what makes for an effective fire retardant, you can check out our scientific White Paper series at FortressFRS.com.

[1] Huang, Q., Lu, G., Wang, J. (2011). Thermal decomposition mechanisms of MgCl2·6H2O and MgCl2·H2O. Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis.

[2] Wu, Y.; Yao, C.; Hu, Y. (2014). Comparative Performance of Three Magnesium Compounds on Thermal Degradation Behavior of Red Gum Wood. Materials.

[3] Besaw, L. M., Thelen, G. C., Sutherland, S. (2011). Disturbance, resource pulses and invasion: Short-term shifts in competitive effects, not growth responses, favour exotic annuals. Journal of Applied Ecology.

[4] Marshall, A., Waller, L., & Lekberg, Y. (2016). Cascading effects of fire retardant on plant-microbe interactions, community composition, and invasion. Ecological Applications.

[5] Angeler, D. G., & Moreno, J. M. (2006). Impact-recovery patterns of water quality in temporary wetlands after fire retardant pollution. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

[6] Tripp, T. G. (2009). Production of magnesium from Great Salt Lake, Utah USA. Natural Resources and Environmental Issues.

[7] Jaber D., Climate Positive Consulting. (2022). Verification and issuance of opinion on carbon footprint analysis conducted by Fortress North America LLC, following the guidance of ISO 14064.

Alberta Wildfire: Shifting the focus  

Alberta Wildfire: Shifting the focus

All photos by the Government of Alberta

A sponsored post by Alberta Wildfire

It is no secret that wildland fires are increasing in frequency, intensity, duration and complexity. How we detect, manage and communicate about them is also changing. We are seeing extreme weather conditions, which are leading to more intense wildfires. Agencies across North America are requesting more and more wildland firefighting resources.

Conferences like the Wildland Fire Canada Conference (WFCC) are essential for agencies, partners and stakeholders to gather and share information and best practices and seek solutions towards our shared objectives.

Alberta continues to explore new technologies to improve our ability to manage wildfires, developing a well-rounded approach that combines innovation with time-tested tactics. While wildfire suppression is top of mind for many, in Alberta we are shifting our priorities. By making a greater investment in wildfire prevention and mitigation we can reduce the frequency and intensity of wildfires on the landscape and save millions in operational costs into the future.

Investing in FireSmart is one example of how we are supporting a mitigation-focused approach. Educational outreach programs such as FireSmart Alberta are critical to wildfire prevention and bringing communities along as part of the prevention effort.

We understand the vital role of prevention in helping offset the demand on wildfire response, and cooperation with our provincial partners in educating the public is key. If we can be stewards of the forest and help to reduce the number of human-caused wildfires, we can reduce the size and complexity of response and recovery. Last year, 67 per cent of wildfires in Alberta were
human-caused and most were associated with the careless use of campfires. Everyone can take simple steps to reduce these preventable wildfires, allowing us to focus more resources where naturally caused wildfires are expected.

Innovation and technology are an integral part of the success of wildfire management programs. We continuously evaluate technology that can improve our practices in areas such as smoke detection, wildfire suppression and wildfire prevention and mitigation. Technologies are tested and evaluated by staff across all areas of wildfire management, who often work with other agencies, to ensure that the result improves wildfire management in Alberta.

Most recently, Alberta participated in a government-wide artificial intelligence initiative that enabled ministries to solicit problem-solving suggestions from external AI service providers. The Alberta Wildfire team developed a prototype suite of algorithms to predict the likelihood of a wildfire occurrence, and the output will enhance our ability to position resources in anticipation of new wildfires.

Timely wildfire detection also contributes to a successful rapid response, limiting the potential growth and power of wildfires. Alberta Wildfire relies on an extensive lookout network, ground and air patrols, a lightning detection network and a public reporting system to ensure swift wildfire detection. Opportunities to improve detection efficiencies are being explored through the use of camera-based detection systems. Along with partners FPInnovations and Alberta Innovates, we evaluated six systems during the 2022 wildfire season, which will help inform if, where, and when camera-based systems can assist wildfire detection in Alberta.

Communication is just as important as our operational response. Alberta Wildfire prides itself on efficient, timely and accurate information sharing. We recently launched the Alberta Wildfire status dashboard, which offers the public a snapshot of the current wildfire situation. It includes up-to-date information about wildfires, including the location, size and suspected cause, seasonal statistics, five-year comparisons, and more. The dashboard has been viewed more than 325,000 times this season, becoming another effective tool to inform the public and stakeholders.

Alberta’s commitment to enhance our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across all areas of wildfire management remains a priority. Diversity within our organization is a strength that we will continue to leverage. We know that this work is ongoing and that there are many ways we can be more diverse and inclusive. We are grateful for the Canadian Interagency Fire Fighting Centre’s leadership on this issue. Alberta Wildfire’s future is one that includes a diverse workforce that is engaged, inclusive and motivated. Strengthening the ties we have with Indigenous communities across Alberta remains a priority for us. Enhancing these relationships and integrating Indigenous perspectives will help bolster our collective awareness, capabilities and capacity to meet the demands associated with managing wildfires.

As we come together for the WFCC from across North America, let’s make the most of this opportunity to appreciate the wide spectrum of voices and perspectives in wildfire. This is a chance for us to learn from each other and find solutions to the many challenges we face into the future.

Don’t Settle for Bad Maps 

Don't settle for bad maps

Sponsored Post by Fire Ai

Today, throughout the world, many fire professionals are expected to defend the well-being of communities and the environment without access to a map. Access to maps should be a fundamental right of firefighters.

The inability to access fireline information is sometimes due to under-funded or poorly provisioned fire programs. Oftentimes, it is the result of the complexities of map making. Maps are complicated to make and they are especially complicated to make well.

Fire AI is a mapping tool developed by firefighters, for firefighters. We are focused on accessibility, meaning the ability to create, edit and share a map has never been easier. Whether you’re as green as grass and on your very first fire, or a charred veteran of countless campaign fires, you can now understand the environment around you, in a way never before possible.

Our ardent belief that fireline mapping should be a fundamental right of firefighters means that the core of Fire AI will be free, forever. Fire professionals constrained by finite resources or technical capacity now have access to the best, most technologically advanced fireline mapping tool on the planet.

Maps are all about making connections.
With connection, we reduce the barriers between ourselves as firefighters, fire managers and decision makers. Success is a measure of our common understanding of our objectives, progress and commitment to fire safety. By focusing on information distribution we minimize the distance between the sweat stained faces and parched throats on the frontline and those orchestrating the complexities of the suppression response on the back-end.

Fire AI is a collaborative platform allowing users to update their environment with changes shared across the network in real-time. This means that populating maps, distributing information and tracking progress is shared among all participants in the wildland fire environment: a powerful connection of situational awareness and firefighter safety.

We are taking advantage of exciting remote sensing technologies like drones, satellite imagery and the sensors in our mobile devices to enhance our understanding of fire: a powerful connection for decision makers and leaders. A modern framework for fire management is achieved when common sense, experience, training and data come together to inform our decisions.

Sign up for Fire AI today. As a part of our community of fire professionals, by using our platform, you are not only forging a connection for wildland firefighters around the world to gain access to a safer fireline, you are contributing to the future of firefighting itself.

This is a fire worth lighting.

A Canadian Aerial Response to Emergencies 

A Canadian Aerial Response to Emergencies 

Photo by Alexandre Dubath

Is There a Need?

The size and number of emergencies is not decreasing. In just the past two years Canada has experienced a barrage of catastrophes, including wildfires, heat domes, atmospheric rivers, floods, and pandemics. And all predictions point to further turmoil, with climate change intensifying all natural disasters. The world is changing – is the response? Are jurisdictions adapting fast enough to protect people, communities, and resources from threats?

Lack of Supply

Countries around the world have purpose-equipped aircraft providing military, medical, evacuation, humanitarian, and wildfire response operations. But cracks are becoming evident. There is a limited supply of these specialty aircraft. Emergency air resources are stretched, pushed to the limits by an ever-increasing number of disasters spanning all seasons, fueled by climate change. Jurisdictions that used to share resources are no longer always able, with their own fleets dedicated to ongoing crisis response. Provinces in Canada have partnered with states in the US to share aerial firefighting aircraft for decades but in recent years there have been too many fires occurring on both sides of the border for either party to always offer aid.

Specialty modern aircraft for multi-role missions are available for purchase, but the turnaround time from a contracted order to operational deployment could be months, as is the case with the Conair Dash 8-400MRE, which operates as an airtanker plus cargo/passenger/medevac, to years, as is the case for purpose-built large amphibious waterbombers.

Aging Specialty Aircraft

In addition to a lack of supply, there is a large number of airtankers reaching the limits of their operational life. Aging airtankers demand more and more frequent heavy maintenance; challenging supply chain availability of parts; and rising operational budgets. Aging emergency response aircraft can face longer periods of grounded time, unavailable to respond when the call comes.

Fleets of aerial firefighters which tackle wildfire response are often converted from older frames, used civil or military aircraft. The aerial firefighting environment is significantly different than the average flight environment, meaning fatigue damage will occur at a faster rate. A fully loaded airtanker on a mission will perform a number of low-level manoeuvres in turbulent conditions, putting strain on the airframe. Metal fatigue damage will show up much sooner and airframe cracks will grow much quicker for airtankers, limiting the lifespan of an airtanker.
Conair, the largest fixed-wing, privately owned aerial firefighting company in the world, discovered, when researching a new modern airframe to replace their legacy fleet of CV580 and Electra 188 airtankers, that some OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) forecasted a damage rate factor in excess of 20 cycles for every single aerial firefighting cycle flown. After considering 29 airframes for conversion to airtanker, Conair selected the De Havilland Dash 8-400, with a damage rate factor of 6.5 cycles in the airtanker role, following Transport Canada regulations, the strictest in the world for aerial firefighting operations. A safe return to base from a mission protects not only crew, it means the airtanker is operational to respond to the next emergency.

Multi Role Response

Budgets are limited. Trained crews for technical operations are limited. The type and number of emergencies are vast, located in diverse geographic regions. An emergency response aircraft that can perform more than one type of mission can be invaluable.

Sécurité Civile in France has operated the Dash 8-400MRE multi role for over 15 years, a fleet of six with two more on order, supporting both France and countries around the world with emergency response operations. The specialized multi-role aircraft can attack and fight wildfires; transport vital emergency suppliers; transport medical, military or crisis personnel; evacuate residents; medevac critically ill patients; and ship humanitarian relief supplies. The aircraft was sent to Haiti in 2020 for medical evacuations following the earthquake that affected more than 300,000 people; it responded to Conakry in Guinea, transporting equipment to Ebola virus treatment centers; and most recently, the emergency response aircraft flew humanitarian cargo and critical medical supplies to Poland from France, in support of Ukraine.

While urban, populated centers enjoy easy access to supplies and services, those residing in remote communities have limited means of transportation. When faced with disaster, these vulnerable communities need fair and equal access to services. The Dash 8-400MRE reaches isolated communities, landing on paved, gravel or ice runways, shorter than required for larger aircraft, operating year-round in diverse geography.

Is it Time to Share Air Assets for Emergency Response?

Investing in large aircraft requires significant capital expense and operational cost. Investing in a national fleet of multi-role aircraft that can accomplish a wide-variety of missions provides a compounded return. Sharing these specialty air assets could benefit multiple jurisdictions, offsetting costs, operational maintenance, crewing, and specialty training.

A cost-sharing approach has been accomplished successfully in aerial firefighting in Canada for decades. Provinces across Canada share airtanker resources, strategically utilizing mobile retardant tanker bases to cover nearly 1 million sq kilometers for a rapid response. The US and Canada also share resources, with airtankers responding when needed across borders.

Is it Time for CARE?

CARE is the Canadian Aerial Response to Emergencies, a fleet of aircraft dedicated to supporting citizens through crisis. The aircraft is Conair’s Dash 8-400MRE, a multi role airtanker to fight wildfires and transport critical personnel, supplies and medical aid to countries in need. It is available now.

Is it time?