GFMC: Forest Fires in Canada

Forest Fires in Canada

31 May 2002

Operational Significant Event Imagery (OSEI)
The following significant events were identified by Satellite Analysis Branch meteorologists and reviewed by the OSEI support team of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

click to enlarge (335 KB)

NESDIS/OSEI NOAA-14 POES AVHRR LAC satellite images,
Heat signatures (red) and smoke (light blue haze) are visible from fires burning in Saskatchewan.
 (Source: OSEI/NOAA)

WebPosted Wed May 29 22:31:04 2002
CONKLIN, ALTA.–Firefighters warn that the massive blaze burning out of control in northern Alberta may get worse.
Officials say rain is expected today but it will not be enough to dampen the blaze. They’re also concerned that lightning from the storm may spark other fires. 
A finger branching off from the main fire continues to threaten the small town of Conklin, about 250 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
People who live there were taken by bus to a school in Fort McMurray, 125 kilometres to the north. Workers from 10 industrial camps and lodges were transported out of the area as well.
More than 1,200 people have been forced to leave.
The fire currently covers 1,200 square kilometres, an area bigger than the city of Toronto. Long and thin in shape, it has been branching out in fingers.
The House River fire has already destroyed 1,000 square kilometres of forest. Nearly 900 firefighters, 45 helicopters, eight water bombers and 75 bulldozers are at work. The operation is estimated to cost $1 million a day.
In northwestern Manitoba, a forest fire has forced as many as 30 people from their homes.
So far the flames have burnt a 34-square-kilometre swath of land near Red Deer Lake, northwest of Winnipeg.
 More than 100 people in nearby towns are on alert in case the fire moves towards them.
(Source: CBC News)

REDWATER, Alta. (CP) _ A tenacious brush fire destroyed another home north of Edmonton on Thursday, while stiff winds hastened the spread of an equally stubborn and larger blaze in the forest further north.
Crews fighting the brush fire near Redwater, where an evacuation forced 15 families from their homes, were having little success controlling it.
“It still is the case that the winds are strong and they . . . can’t contain it yet,” said Sturgeon County spokeswoman Barb Smith.
“Unfortunately, some time during the night, we did lose another home, so now we have three homes lost due to this fire, and several other structures such as workshops and sheds.”
Andy Makowsky, Redwater’s fire chief, said the fire had grown to 11 square kilometres and firefighters didn’t have “a good handle on it.”
“It’s a volatile area with pine and spruce. A lot of it didn’t burn (Wednesday) and it’s flaring up in the winds.”
The goal was to create a perimeter around the mainly farms and country homes threatened by the fire.
Crews were bracing for another difficult day in Alberta, but there were also fires still burning near several other Prairie communities where people were forced to flee their homes. In Manitoba, however, some evacuees were expected to return by the afternoon.
Conditions at one particularly aggressive fire in northern Alberta, which already forced the evacuation of 1,200 people, were expected to be “very extreme” Thursday.
“It’s going to be very volatile with those winds,” said fire official Rick Strickland. “You can expect to see rapid spread rates.”
The intensity rating of the out-of-control blaze, about 100 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, was expected to increase sharply with wind gusts of up to 60 kilometres an hour, said Strickland, who added conditions were ripe for what is know as a crown fire.
“A crown fire is when it gets into the top portion of the trees, moving from one to another,” he said. “In these winds it can move very quickly, even faster than on the ground.”
Strickland said Thursday was shaping up to be one of the worst days since the fire began May 17. It has scorched up 1,400 square kilometres _ an area more than double the size of the city of Toronto _ like a ravenous, fire-chomping Pac-man.
“The winds can carry burning pieces of debris up to five kilometres in front of the main fire, creating new fires and pulling the main fire in that vortex.”
The advancing flames were less than 15 kilometres from the hamlet of Conklin where 250 residents were evacuated Monday along with hundreds of others from small camps in the area.
The province was keeping a small army of more than 1,000 firefighters, two dozen water bombers and dozens of helicopters and bulldozers at various points across the northern half of the province.
A storm Wednesday night resulted in thousands of lightning strikes and caused more than a dozen new fires, but there was no significant rain, said Strickland. There were more than 200 fires burning in all.
In Manitoba, emergency and conservation officials determined it was safe enough to allow about 150 people from the Powell-Barrows area, about 500 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, to begin returning to their homes.
But both communities were to remain on one-hour standby for at least another 24 hours to see if crews could continue to hold the line on a fire that was just 1{ kilometres from Powell at one point.
Ground crews and helicopters with water buckets were still working on the fire, which is believed to have been deliberately set. Almost 300 fires have been reported to date in Manitoba.
A fire was still burning as well in Saskatchewan, about 180 kilometres east of Saskatoon near Archerville. That fire has doubled in size since last week and could go on for some time, said John Cook of the provincial fire control centre.
“The conditions are so dry in the fire ban areas that even unusual things that don’t normally start fires can start them,” said Cook, who added car accidents and even glass in a ditch can trigger blazes.


Tinder-dry forests fuel Canadian wildfires
CALGARY – Nearly 1,000 firefighters battled a huge forest fire in northern Alberta yesterday, with officials holding out little hope of bringing the blaze, which has already forced the evacuation of one small community, under control any time soon.
The fire, which has been devouring vast tracts of woodlands near the tiny northeastern Alberta town of Conklin for about a week, has now spread over 1,200 square kilometres (470 square miles) of tinder-dry forest, an area roughly 1-1/2 times that of New York City.
Conklin’s 250 residents were evacuated this week. The town is about 300 km (186 miles) northeast of Edmonton.
The so-called House River fire was within 13 km (8 miles) of Conklin yesterday, said Rick Strickland, the western province’s forest fire information officer.
“We’ve done a pretty good job on holding the perimeter but under these conditions – very explosive conditions with these winds – you get a couple breaks in the line and the fire spreads,” Strickland said.
The fire was also causing headaches for Alberta’s large oil industry.
EnCana Corp. , the world’s biggest independent explorer and producer, said it evacuated 21 workers on Monday from its new heavy oil plant at nearby Christina Lake.
Company spokesman Scott Ranson said the fire was burning about 17 km (11 miles) from the plant, which has yet to start pumping oil.
Staff at two natural gas compressor stations in the region were also forced to stay away from the facilities.
Strickland said winds of up to 30 km per hour (20 mph) winds and low humidity, the result of years of drought in the region, were making the battle difficult.
“Although rain would certainly help…it would still be difficult, but then we would have something to work with,” he said. “There’s no rain in the forecast for the next couple of days that would have any large impact on the fire.”
Alberta is spending C$1.2 million ($780,000) a day on firefighters, helicopters, water bombers and heavy equipment to fight the blaze.
Firefighters have been brought in from neighboring British Columbia and as far away as Quebec to bolster Alberta’s efforts to fight the fire, the province’s 12th biggest in the past two decades. The cause of the fire is not known.
Much of the Prairie province of Manitoba is also facing an extreme fire risk due to hot, dry weather and lightning strikes.
More than 100 firefighters, supported by water bombers and bulldozers, battled a 3,000 hectare (7,400 acre) blaze burning out control near Red Deer Lake in the north-central part of the province yesterday.
About 25 people have been forced from their homes in the community of Powell. Another neighboring community, Barrows, is on a one-hour alert.
Fire investigators said they believe the blaze was deliberately set.
There have already been 281 forest fires in Manitoba this year, involving 12,100 hectares (30,000 acres). (Source: Planet Ark)


For further Information on Wildfires in Canada please visit our new site:

Canada: Forest Fire Monitoring and Early Warning


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