Canadian Forest Service Publications

Modeling fire susceptibility in west central Alberta, Canada. 2009. Beverly, J.; Herd, E.P.K.; Conner, J.C.R. Forest Ecology and Management 258(7): 1465-1478.

Year: 2009

Available from: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 30075

Language: English

Abstract

Strategic modification of forest vegetation has become increasingly popular as one of the few preemptive activities that land managers can undertake to reduce the likelihood that an area will be burned by a wildfire. Directed use of prescribed fire or harvest planning can lead to changes in the type and arrangement of forest vegetation across the landscape that, in turn, may reduce fire susceptibility across large areas. While among the few variables that fire managers can influence, fuel conditions are only one of many factors that determine fire susceptibility. Variations in weather and topography, in combination with fuels, determine which areas are more likely to burn under a given fire regime. An understanding of these combined factors is necessary to identify high fire susceptibility areas for prioritizing and evaluating strategic fuel management activities, as well as informing other fire management activities, such as community protection planning and strategic level allocation of fire suppression resources across a management area. We used repeated fire growth simulations, automated in the Burn-P3 landscape-fire simulation model, to assess spatial variations in fire susceptibility across a 2.4 million ha study area in the province of Alberta, Canada. The results were used to develop a Fire Susceptibility Index (FSI). Multivariate statistical analyses were used to identify the key factors that determine variation in FSI across the study area and to describe the spatial scale at which these variables influence fire susceptibility at a given location. A fuel management scenario was used to assess the impact of prescribed fire treatments on FSI. Results indicated that modeled fire susceptibility was strongly influenced by fuel composition, fuel arrangement, and topography. The likelihood of high or extreme FSI values at a given location was strongly associated with the percent of conifer forest within a 2-km radius, and with elevation and ignition patterns within a 5-km radius. Results indicated that prescribed fire treatments can be effective at reducing forest fire susceptibility in community protection zones and that simulation modeling is an effective means of evaluating spatial variation in landscape fire susceptibility.