UBC Undergraduate Research

Predicting Wildfires : An investigation of species-specific responses to drought and how it is quantified in order to predict the risk and behavior of wildfires. Brown, Jessica; Maher, Rochelle


The level of drought is an important factor regarding the risk of wildfires and is assessed quantitatively by the BC Wildfire Service in order to make accurate predictions about fire behavior. Precipitation, the soil moisture index and temperature are taken into account, but not the species of trees or fuel type present. Three samples each of eight different species representing five prominent fuel types in BC were saturated and dried in order to assess species-specific response to drought. The results showed that while the rate of water loss is the same among species, the species vary significantly in the amount of water that they can take up, which ultimately creates species-specific drying times upon exposure to the same precipitation levels. Therefore, we concluded that the current method for computing drought is incomplete and proposed an adjusted method that incorporates species and fuel type. This means that fire risk can be assessed with greater accuracy which is critical for effective deployment of resources and fire suppression.

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