UBC Undergraduate Research

Analyzing Fire Ignition Data in the Kamloops, Lillooet and Merritt fire zones : with implications toward the effects of fire suppression on the landscape. Schmidt, Quentin


Understanding historic fire regimes in the dry forests of southern British Columbia has been the cause of contentious debate, with implications that will continue to influence the approach to wildfire management in the area. Making use of lighting-strike and human-caused ignition data from 1998 through 2012 for the Kamloops, Lillooet and Merritt fire zones, this study analyzes records on both spatial and temporal scales and draws connections between ignitions and the distribution of climatic zones and fuel types on the landscape. Using fire weather data for the Kamloops zone, individual fire events were then assessed for their potential behaviour in the absence of fire suppression. For the 2365 ignitions included in this study, 58% were attributed to human causes, which accounted for 76% of the total area burned. Fire numbers were disproportionately high in lower elevation ecosystems, but had larger impacts in upper elevation forests. The most telling result is that 92% of all fires did not make it over four hectares in size, either as the result of aggressive suppression or weather conditions at the time of ignition. This absence of large-scale events provides no natural fuel mitigation across the landscape, and will allow stands to become more densely structured and host much more severe wildfires.

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