A vital task for forest managers in Canada is to monitor forest conditions, keeping track of current fires and assessing the risk of new ones.
This monitoring task, requiring major scientific and logistical effort, is carried out by federal, provincial and territorial agencies working cooperatively. Over decades, increasingly sophisticated tools have been developed for analyzing fire behaviour, assessing fire risk and monitoring fire conditions across the country.
The Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS) includes daily maps that display fire danger and fire occurrence nation-wide. The system provides information for the public, media, researchers, fire agencies, the federal government and international organizations.
Data used to create CWFIS map products includes: weather observations from federal and provincial/territorial networks’ weather forecasts; satellite imagery; fire statistics and reports; geographical features; and vegetation classes.
Among the major components of CWFIS:
- The Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS) rates the risk of forest fires across the country. Fire danger includes various factors in the fire environment, such as ease of ignition and difficulty of control.
- The Fire Monitoring, Mapping and Modeling System (Fire M3), developed by the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) and the Canadian Forest Service, uses satellite imagery to identify and monitor actively burning fires daily.
- Monthly and seasonal forecast maps present predictions of fire weather severity related to the average monthly and seasonal severity rating. Predictions are based on Environment Canada’s monthly and seasonal forecasts, information contained in CWFIS, and advice provided by provincial agencies.
- The National Wildland Fire Situation Report presents the current and historical fire conditions. It includes: statistics on the number of fires and extent of area burned; a list of priority fires; and a synopsis of the past week. A prognosis for the upcoming week focuses on forecasted weather and expected fire danger.
- The Fire Monitoring, Accounting and Reporting System (FireMARS), developed by the Canadian Forest Service and the CCRS, uses satellite data and fire information to track area burned and carbon emissions from wildland fires. The emissions information goes into comprehensive national and international carbon emissions reports.
Sharing firefighting resources
Fighting fires is a difficult and expensive business. Fortunately, fire agencies across the country have a tradition of sharing the load, coming to each other’s assistance whenever necessary.
The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) coordinates the exchange among regions of available resources, including aircraft, personnel and equipment for cooperative firefighting. The centre also compiles national forest fire statistics and facilitates information-sharing among agencies.
The federal government contributes one-third of CIFFC’s operating costs. Provinces and territories cover the remaining two-thirds. The agency doing the borrowing covers all of the operational costs for suppressing (meaning putting out) fires.
Agreements with the United States and other nations allow fast trans-border movement of firefighting resources.