Canadian Forest Service Publications

A lightning fire prediction system. 2012. Wotton, M. Natural Resources Canada. Canadian Forest Service. Great Lakes Forestry Centre. Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Frontline Express 60. 2p.

Year: 2012

Available from: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34088

Language: English

Series: Frontline Express (GLFC - Sault Ste. Marie)

CFS Availability: PDF (download)

Abstract

In Canada an average of 8,000 forest fires occur each year and the area burned ranges from 0.7 to 7.6 million hectares/year. Average suppression costs are $500 million to $1 billion annually. While just under 50% of fires occur from lightning, they lead to 85% of the area burned. This is largely due to the number of lightning fires that occur in remote locations. Although some of these fires are left to burn to allow natural renewal of the forest, those that require suppression may be difficult to control due to delays in their detection and the arrival of fire fighting resources, allowing the fires to grow and reach higher intensities. Lightning fires also tend to occur in clusters, with as many as 50 to 100 or more igniting in a single day in some provinces, which can strain initial attack systems. With the warming of the atmosphere expected with climate change, an increase in lightning activity can be expected and that coupled with potentially increased receptivity of fuels to ignition means that lightning fires will increasingly influence the landscape and forest fire management activities. While fire suppression is a provincial or territorial responsibility, the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) has developed effective tools that allow provincial fire agencies to better plan for fire and enhance protection of areas of concern. One such tool is the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS), the result of a Canadian research program that began in the late 1920s, and which is currently used operationally throughout Canada and in a growing number of countries around the world. It helps fire management agencies by providing outputs that assist them in estimating when and where fires are expected to occur each day. The system takes into account factors such as weather, fuel and topography to estimate ease of ignition and difficulty of control and is used as a guide in a wide variety of fire management activities. CFS scientists continually work to improve the system and recently have enhanced it to more accurately predict lightning-caused fire probability.

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