Canadian Forest Service Publications

The impact of fuel treatments on wildfire behavior in North American boreal fuels: a simulation study using FIRETEC. 2020. Marshall, G.; Thompson, D.K.; Anderson, K.; Simpson, B.; Linn, R.; Schroeder, D. Fire 3(2):18.

Year: 2020

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40139

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.3390/fire3020018

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Abstract

Current methods of predicting fire spread in Canadian forests are suited to large wildfires that spread through natural forests. Recently, the use of mechanical and thinning treatments of forests in the wildland-urban interface of Canada has increased. To assist in community wildfire protection planning in forests not covered by existing operational fire spread models, we use FIRETEC to simulate fire spread in lowland black spruce fuel structures, the most common tree stand in Canada. The simulated treatments included the mechanical mulching of strips, and larger, irregularly shaped areas. In all cases, the removal of fuel by mulch strips broke up the fuels, but also caused wind speed increases, so little decrease in fire spread rate was modelled. For large irregular clearings, the fire spread slowly through the mulched wood chips, and large decreases in fire spread and intensity were simulated. Furthermore, some treatments in the black spruce forest were found to be effective in decreasing the distance and/or density of firebrands. The simulations conducted can be used alongside experimental fires and documented wildfires to examine the effectiveness of differing fuel treatment options to alter multiple components of fire behavior.

Plain Language Summary

Altering the forest structure by thinning and cutting is frequently used in the wildland urban interface for community protection; however, treatments like these are difficult to represent in operational fire growth models. To assist in community wildfire protection planning in forests not covered by existing operational fire spread models, we use FIRETEC, a physics-based wildfire behaviour model, to simulate fire spread in lowland black spruce fuel structures, the most common tree stand in Canada. We apply four plausible fire weather scenarios and examine how different mechanical mulching treatments affect fire behaviour. Treatments include the mechanical mulching of strips parallel and perpendicular to the mean wind direction, and larger irregularly shaped areas where stems were removed in both the simulated thin and dense regions of the stand. In all cases, the removal of fuel by mulch strips broke up the fuels, but it also caused increases in wind speed, so little decrease in fire spread rate was modelled. For large irregular clearings, the fire spread slowly through the mulched wood chips, and large decreases in fire spread and intensity were simulated. Furthermore, some treatments in the black spruce forest were found to be effective in decreasing the distance and/or density of firebrands. The simulations conducted can be used alongside experimental fires and documented wildfires to examine the effectiveness of differing fuel treatment options to alter multiple components of fire behavior.