How to better protect communities from wildfires

Wildfires are a natural phenomenon that many communities in Canada will encounter, believes Kelly Johnston, technical advisor at FireSmart Canada, a national program aimed at reducing fire risk.

We must learn to become resilient and adapt to this special situation that societies are facing, He said.

It is first necessary to observe peri-urban areas, that is, located on the immediate outskirts of the city. He explains that when a fire spreads from the forest to the city, or vice versa, it can be fatal and cause enormous economic and structural damage.

Fire Fort McMurrayIn 2016, for example, it spanned an area of ​​more than 5,000 square kilometers and destroyed 2,400 buildings.

As of Friday, there were 210 active wildfires in the county, 15 of which were considered major fires.

Photo: Reuters/BC Wildfire

Reduce the amount of fuel

Next, we must reduce the amount of combustible materials, experts believe.

One method is controlled fires, a technique that indigenous peoples have mastered thousands of years ago, according to Amy Cardinal Christianson, a fire researcher with the Canadian Forest Service (CFS).

Although the original culturalControlled burning is now used by fire departments to reduce the amount of combustible materials in forest soils near local communities and in the forest.

Without these cleared areas, the forests consist of coniferous or fir trees. It’s almost a monoculture, loved by wildfires, Det Amy Cardinal Christianson.

A massive wildfire near Interstate 63 in Fort McMurray.

A huge fireball on Interstate 63 near Fort McMurray during the 2016 wildfires.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Jonathan Heyward

Building with fire in mind

Kelly Johnston adds that cities should be built with fireproof materials.

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You have to keep an eye on the way the structures are built, in terms of materials and design, and then figure out where they are. [et] How is vegetation changed?

Using more fire-resistant siding materials, including brick, concrete, fiber cement board, or tempered glass for windows, can better protect the home.

Managing vegetation at a distance of 30 meters between wild and urban areas reduces the possibility of fire spread, He said.

With information from Jade Prévost-Manuel

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