Controlling forest fires

Feb 17, 2012

Simon Fraser University statistician Rick Routledge will share his knowledge of what layers of charcoal in lake-bottom sediment can tell us about an area's forest fire history, at the world's largest science fair in Vancouver.

Routledge is speaking at Forest Fires in Canada: and Fire Smoke, a three-hour seminar at the 2012 (AAAS) conference. The international event runs Feb. 16 to 20 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Routledge's speech, Fire History in Ponderosa Pine Grasslands: Lessons from the Past,. kicks off the seminar, which reviews potential ways of resolving increasing forest across Canada.

Routledge will discuss whether First Nations' historical success with using frequent intentionally set small fires to suppress occurrence generally could inform present day forest fire management.

Routledge is better known for estimating past abundance of returning sockeye salmon in a rearing lake based on the abundance, size and shape of the remains of organisms, fed on by fish, in sediment.

However, here, he will apply his that experience to inferring past forest fire frequency from layers of charcoal-laden sediment in lake bottoms.

"A major fire will generate an influx of small charcoal particles," explains Routledge. "If you take a core of sediment from the , by sifting down through the layers, a researcher can use the charcoal abundance in successive layers to gain insight on fire history in the vicinity of the lake."

Routledge will draw on his study of and fire-scarred trees in the Okanagan's Sawmill and Madden lakes to compare the success of present and past forest fire management regimes. He says studies show that present day aggressive fire protection methods can lead to a build-up of conditions on the forest floor. That, he adds, can spark potentially devastating fires, such as the one in the Okanagan Valley in 2003.

"Some examples of aggressive fire protection methods are helicopter bombing with water and fire retardant and deploying ground crews and equipment with all-terrain vehicles into the forest," says Routledge.

"It's probably naïve to suggest that we try to reduce the fire risk simply by returning to the past where fires may well have been deliberately started by First Nations people to manage the natural landscape.

"We shall probably need to continue to develop a mixed strategy that will involve some controlled burning, some silviculture and some aggressive suppression, particularly where urban and rural area connect."

Explore further: Managing coasts under threat from climate change and sea-level rise

Provided by Simon Fraser University

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wildfire razes Canadian town

May 16, 2011

A wildfire engulfed the town of Slave Lake in western Canada, forcing the evacuation of its 7,000 residents at the start of the forest fire season, authorities said Monday.

Fire destroys 1,500 hectares of Patagonia forest

Dec 30, 2011

A fire has destroyed or seriously damaged 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of vegetation in a Patagonia nature preserve in southern Chile, forcing the evacuation of 400 people, officials said Thursday.

Study reveals homeowner perceptions in fire-prone areas

Sep 25, 2008

Most residents in fire-prone communities surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest have taken steps to protect their homes from wildland fires, according to a U.S. Forest Service study completed this summer.

Recommended for you

Shell files new plan to drill in Arctic

2 hours ago

Royal Dutch Shell has submitted a new plan for drilling in the Arctic offshore Alaska, more than one year after halting its program following several embarrassing mishaps.

Reducing water scarcity possible by 2050

3 hours ago

Water scarcity is not a problem just for the developing world. In California, legislators are currently proposing a $7.5 billion emergency water plan to their voters; and U.S. federal officials last year ...

User comments : 0