The 1993 fire season in Canada was one of the lowest on record, with only 6,041 fires being recorded as of 31 December. The season began with low over winter precipitation bringing northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, along with the southern half of the Northwest Territories into the fire season with extremely high drought codes (DC). Some of the DC’s were exceeding 600 by mid May.
Dry lightning storms in mid May triggered multi-fire starts in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, requiring the mobilization of additional land based tankers into Saskatchewan. On 3 June, Saskatchewan reported a fire originating on the Primrose Air Weapons Range (Deer Fire) at 47,000 ha. This fire was destined to plague them for the bulk of the 1993 season, with its final size being reported in excess of 300,000 ha.
Early June saw another lightning incident hit the dry areas of central Canada with Alberta receiving 237 fires, from 7 to 10 June. Additional air tankers, ground pumps and hose were mobilized to meet the need. By late June the Saskatchewan “Deer Fire” had grown substantially and another fire named the “Dino Fire,” required the evacuation of 350 people and had grown to project size, stretching their already depleted resources. Additional hand tools, pumps and accessory equipment were mobilized to assist. Problem fires in northern Manitoba necessitated the evacuation of Wabowden on 22 June and Lynn Lake on 30 June.
July seemed to be a repeat of the 1992 season with cool wet weather blanketing most of Canada and effectively reducing the fire threat, and fire incident for the month. The Northwest Territories was the exception with numerous lightning storms tracking along the Mackenzie Valley giving rise to 203 fires reported from 10 June to 10 July. Four additional DC-6 groups and a CL-215 group were mobilized to meet the demand. Numerous fires in the Norman Wells area, one of which posed a threat to an oil refinery site, resulted in the Wells being placed in an evacuation mode, but was not enacted.
Thirty-four resource orders were processed through CIFFC during the 1993 fire season. This number does not allow for the numerous quick strike arrangements, nor the many requests for information on available resources. Twenty one air tanker groups, 110 pumps, 3,800 lengths of hose, 400 shovels, 350 pulaskis, 70 radios and other assorted ground equipment, some specialty teams and a high level infrared line scanner were mobilized in support of fire management activities during the 1993 fire season. Although the 1993 fire season was generally speaking, very mild, the number of resources moved shows a growing reliance on resources housed in other agencies. This continued sharing of resources reinforces the need for nationally accepted exchange standards for all fire management resources.
As far as the fire numbers go, Canada has experienced a below average fire year with 6,041 fires for 1,917,913 ha reported as of 31 December 1993.
The following statistics (Tab.1) show that out of a total of 6,041 fires burning 1,917,913 ha, 437 were actioned under a Modified Response, burning 1,672,936 ha. A Modified Response fire is one that is allowed to burn within set policy and management guidelines or may be actioned in a limited manner to bring the fire back into those guidelines. The fires that received a Modified Response account for only 7.2% of the total number of fires but 87.2% of the total burned area.
Wildfires in which structures and or other human development have been lost or damaged, have become known as “Interface Fires.” Table 2 shows the wildfire damage estimate for 1993 as compared to 1990, 1991 and 1992. There have been no fire related fatalities reported during the 1993 fire season compared to 2 in 1992, 4 in 1991, 3 in 1990, 0 in 1989, 3 in 1988, 3 in 1987 and 6 in 1986.
Tab.1. Canada forest fire statistics of 1993
Tab.2. Losses caused at the wildland/residential interface in1993 as compared to 1990-1992
From: Tom Johnston
Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre
210-301 Weston Street
CDN – Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 3H4