While it is impossible to predict wildfires completely accurately, experts are getting more and more able to predict the likelihood of wildfires in certain locations at certain times and how they will behave. This is extremely important in terms of wildfire preparedness and suppression planning.
Factors Used to Predict Wildfire
Extreme Heat & Dry Conditions
Extremely hot and dry weather is a major predictor of wildfire. The longer that a heat wave lasts, the more likely it is that wildfires will start and rage out of control because they have so much dry fuel available to burn. Hot and dry conditions evaporate moisture from the atmosphere, resulting in very dry vegetation and soil. These conditions make it easy for fires to ignite and spread very quickly.
Lightning & Wind
Many people might assume that if a storm rolls in, this is positive for wildfire suppression because it will likely bring moisture with it. However, often summer storms are actually a cause of wildfires starting or expanding. This is because the amount of rain that comes with a given storm is often not enough to stop a forest fire, and the lightning and wind from the storm can easily ignite new fires and/or cause existing fires to spread rapidly. Predicting weather patterns helps firefighters to prepare for when rough winds and lightning strikes are likely to occur and strategize accordingly.
The amount and type of vegetation in a given area can be a predictor of wildfire activity. If there is a ton of vegetation that dries out easily in a specific location, this can easily become a collection of fuel that can go up in flames extremely quickly if a spark is ignited. Paying attention to areas that have a lot of potential wildfire fuel can be helpful in wildfire suppression. Solutions such as using grazing cattle to reduce the amount of fuel can help to prevent forest fires in these areas.
Using these techniques to help predict wildfire more accurately empowers communities to take control of their fire preparedness. SPIEDR helps communities across Canada prepare for forest fires with wildland fire consulting, training services, and equipment rental.