Friday, 10 July 2015

Forest Fires: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

You may have noticed a surge in forest fires in Canada this summer especially in British Columbia and in Northern Saskatchewan. There is a lot of myth and misinformation surrounding the causes and dangers of forest fires. While forest fires are an important revitalization life-process for most forest ecosystems, it can be devastating for the people who have built homes and lives in and around these wooded areas. Understanding why forest fires occur, what they do to our environment, and how this affects our ecosystem for years to come, is vital for recognizing and addressing issues such as climate change and fire safety. 

Causes of Forest Fires

There are two causes for forest fires: 1) natural elements such as lightening and 2) human-caused ignition such as campfires.

Naturally Occurring Forest Fires

Natural fires are typically caused by a combination of factors that contribute to a highly flammable environment. Dry, hot weather, in a wooded area is the perfect breeding ground for flames. These fires are usually ignited by lightening with a very small percentage of fires started by spontaneous combustion.

Human-Caused Fires

Forest fires caused by humans can occur in a myriad of ways such as improperly controlled or constructed campfires, sparks from car engines and motor powered equipment and smoking. Although human-caused fires actually make up the majority of the forest fires we see today, it is actually the naturally occurring fires that cause the most damage. Human-made fires are often noticed right away and therefore are much easier to put out. Naturally made fires, on the other hand, often go undetected, which allows the fire to spread and burn faster and longer. These fires can be extremely difficult to extinguish.

Forest Fires are Good?

Forest fires are a double-edged sword as they are contradictory in nature. Fire destroys life, yet this destruction is actually vital for the rejuvenation and birth of new life. In fact, many plant and tree species need fire in order for their seeds to open. 

Why there are so many forest fires recently:

Naturally occurring forest fires are important for the continuation of the ecosystem  life-cycle process. It is, however, the intervention of humans that have lead to wider spread fires in recent years. The reason for this is kindling. When natural forest fires do occur, they are not only important for the propagation of new life and plant species, but are also integral in controlling future fires. Think of it: a fire will actually prevent future fires from spreading too much as it cycles through dry wood every so often. No access kindling, means no fuel for the fire. 

Climate Change:

The increase in hot and dry temperatures has contributed to the growing numbers of forest fires year after year in Canada.These conditions provide the fuel for a wildfire. This, combined with more lightening without rain all contribute to the growth of wildfires especially in Western Canada.

Even though forest fires are an important part of the lifecycle process, it can be quite devastating for people who live in and around a fire zone.

Right now in Canada alone, there are 273 forest fires burning, 117 of them are currently uncontrolled. In northern Saskatchewan alone, approximately 14 000 people were evacuated from their homes and over 600 firefighters are now on site to help control the situation. This is the ugly reality of forest fires: they can happen anywhere and at any time, putting many peoples’ homes and lives at risk.

Insurance coverage during a fire evacuation:

If you are  forced to evacuate your home due to safety reasons, your insurance company will cover you for additional living expenses such as rent/hotel costs, transportation fees, food, and any other costs associated with the evacuation.

The best thing to do is to call your insurance company as soon as you have been evacuated to a safe location to ask them for your coverage options.

Forest Fire Awareness and Prevention:

You can do a lot to reduce the risk of forest fires by following a few simple safety checks:

Campfires: Do you know how to build a proper and safe campfire? There are a lot of great resources on fire safety while camping. Below is the link to the Alberta Parks’ campfire safety guide:

Pay attention to fire bans in your area: Whenever it is dry and hot, it usually means there is a high level of wildfire risks. Always check to see if there is a fire ban before camping or even burning a fire pit in your backyard. After all, one rogue amber can be carried by the wind and be the source of ignition for a nearby wooded area.

For fire bans in your area:



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