Community-based fire planning is essential

Community-based fire  planning is essential
Photo: Dali Carmichael.

Editor, I liked your sensible editorial on fire planning. I pretty much reached the same conclusions as you a number of years ago.

In 2012, I was asked to speak about landscape fire challenges at the Wildfire Fire Canada conference (http://www.ualberta.ca/~wildfire/2012/PDFs/Mark%20Heathcott.pdf). This biennial conference series provides a forum for fire management agencies to exchange information. At that time, I had over three decades of fire experience, including five years in Wood Buffalo at Fort Smith (1988-1992). I left government fire service in 2007 , but have remained independently involved in fire management since then.

I feel that community-based planning, implementation and continued evaluation of actions is essential. For fixed assets, like communities and other infrastructure, this is best done at the local level. These assets need to be made resilient to fire using existing technology used in industrial applications. For instance, wildland fire pumps (Wajax Mark 3) and forestry hose (1.5”) were developed for portability, as they’re continually set up and torn down on remote fires. As a result, performance-wise, they provide limited water when compared to agricultural irrigation equipment (powerful pumps/large diameter hose or pipe) which remain relatively stationary. Community-based protection could be enhanced using high volume water delivery systems and sprinklers. Installed, the question then becomes when to turn the system on. From here it’s no stretch to see burning off the hazardous fuel before wildfire’s approach and in time, a full blown community-based prescribed fire program. The end result would be managed forests around where people live, just like the old days.

Mark Heathcott
Calgary

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