Forest Fires in Canada


In 2003, the municipality of Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta faced the Lost Creek Fire, its largest since 1930, which burned 20,000 hectares of timber on its southern side and forced the evacuation of two towns. At the time, many forestry officials, firefighters and locals commented on the difficulty faced fighting this fire, due mainly in part to the high winds and rugged topography of the area. These two factors combined created erratic, gusting winds flowing from all directions over the local hills and valleys. Numerous berms and cut lines built to contain the flames were easily overrun in the month-long blaze before it was fully contained. Luckily, no homes were lost. Since that time, investment and development in the Pass have increased substantially, as have worries that another fire might now threaten the northern side of the municipality.

This project aims to produce a fire threat analysis of a second major fire occurring north of the Crowsnest Pass. Special emphasis will be placed on modeling or deriving the magnitude and direction of the local winds. This will give a quantifiable idea of trouble spots prone to dangerous winds, where fire containment could be rapidly lost. If time permits, the south side might be analyzed as a "control" situation; does the GIS analysis make sense given an actual fire outcome?

The analysis will operate under the assumption that there has been an on-going drought in the area, and so precipitation/lightning strike data will not be critical. Several maps detailing the threat will be produced, showing areas where fires are most likely to start, where they will spread, and where they will be most dangerous to the local communities.

Focus Area in Alberta

2003 Crowsnest Pass Fire Images
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Photos by Jason Knight.
Lost Creek Fire, Looking South: July 2003.
Turtle Mountain Fire: August 2, 2003.
Crowsnest Mountain, Looking West: August 2, 2003.
Hillcrest Fire: August 2, 2003.
Hillcrest Fire, Evening: August 2, 2003.
Satellite imagery from NASA's Earth Observatory Natural Hazards Archive.
BC and Alberta Forest Fires: August 2003.
BC and Alberta Forest Fires: September 2003.
Photos by the Foothills Amateur Radio Society. Photo page found here.
Burned Trail.
Ridge Forest Fire.
Ridge Forest Fire Smoke Plume.