FPInnovations’ Wildfire Operations Advisory group has asked its researchers to explore a method by which the performance of water-enhancing products can be repeatedly assessed in the laboratory. A new test method, known as the crib test, was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of water-enhancing products on burning woody fuel to simulate direct-attack aerial operations.
This report outlines the methodology for the crib test and describes the findings from performance evaluation tests conducted at the Protective Clothing and Equipment Research Facility (PCERF) at the University of Alberta.
The USDA Forest Service’s Qualified Product List (QPL) provides guidance on the range of permissible mix ratios for water-enhancer products. Due to the proprietary nature of water-enhancer products, there are several unknowns about the rheology of the permissible mix ratios.
This study focused on mapping the viscosity of various suppressant products as a function of their mix ratios. The results revealed a wide range of viscosities across products, with each product showing a different non-linear relationship with different mix ratios.
The results from this study can help understand the optimum viscosity range to achieve desired drop characteristics during aerial operations.
The aim of this study was to capture data on area-based water delivery systems, specifically in the context of logistics, systems differentiation, water delivery, and its localized effects. FPInnovations successfully collaborated with Fire & Flood to obtain this data. A two-day test was executed during which Fire & Flood set up their 4- and 12-inch systems and carried out sprinkler operations.
This review explores the benefits, challenges, limitations, logistics, and cost-effectiveness of different management options to convert conifer-dominated stands to aspen-dominated stands. These alternatives can include overstory removal (harvesting, bulldozing, shear blading, prescribed burning) and site preparation (root trenching, drag scarification, broadcast burning) treatments. On sites where parent aspen trees are not present in the original stand, tree planting will be necessary albeit costly in comparison to regeneration by suckering. While extensive literature exists on the regeneration of trembling aspen through suckering, research on artificial establishment with seedlings and its requirements is still in its infancy and rapidly developing.
The clean air initiative led by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment seeks to develop innovative methods to improve community air quality by utilizing harvest residues and minimizing the volume of fibre burned at roadside. Retaining processed tops as roadside oriented piles is proposed as an alternative to burning debris.
These burn trials have demonstrated that in this unique arrangement of fuels and interaction of site-specific variables, particular areas of the piles will be more vulnerable to ignition sources which can lead to sustained burning and high intensity fire behaviour. In addition to the low fuel moisture conditions, other fuel properties, such as the close proximity of piles, high volume of fine fuels (branches and needles) and orientation of piles to road all contributed to enhanced burning at this site.
Forest fuel treatments are applied across a broad range of ecosites in Alberta and Canada, with an overarching goal of managing hazardous fuel buildup to mitigate wildfire. These treatments use various manual and mechanical processes to achieve fuel treatment objectives. Planning and application of a specific forest fuel treatment technique is often shaped by several factors, including objectives of the fuel treatment, availability of resources (personnel and equipment), and commitment to using local resources (socio-economics). In addition, site conditions in certain ecosites will favour the application of some treatment techniques over others.
With the broad nature of numerous fuel treatment techniques applied over a wide range of environmental conditions, it is difficult to document all treatments and develop comparative productivity and cost evaluations. This summary of fuel treatment studies accesses current research to present relevant findings and identify knowledge gaps in research on stand-level fuel treatment productivity.
Modified oxygen consumption calorimetry was used to track the seasonal flammability of black spruce and tamarack. Age class related samples were collected for both species from May to September at research site in central Alberta. These samples were assessed for their differential heat release using test equipment at the Protective Clothing and Equipment Research Facility (PCERF) at the University of Alberta.
The test method was able to successfully quantify the differences in seasonal flammability between black spruce and tamarack. Data showed the age-related flammability differences were less pronounced, with the exception of new growth samples early in the season.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s (AAF) Wildfire Management Branch recently contracted two Sikorsky S-61N heavy helicopters. Both helicopters are equipped with an external tank (max. volume 1000 U.S. gallons) and have on-board injection systems that are capable of mixing class A foams and water-enhancers.
Currently, there is limited data on comparative drop footprints of foam and water-enhancers (suppressants) for these heavy helicopters. To fill this knowledge gap, AAF has asked FPInnovations to conduct drop tests in different wildland fuel environments. This study focuses on mapping the drop footprints of water, foam, and water-enhancers in black spruce stands at specific flight parameters.
Reduced surface evaporation rates are marketed as a competitive advantage by water-enhancer manufacturers. In this report, a new test method is developed and applied to quantify the evaporation rates of various commercially available water-enhancer products in a controlled environment. These quantified evaporation rates were then compared to the evaporation rate of water which served as the benchmark.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s (AAF) Wildfire Management Branch has recently contracted two Sikorsky S-61N heavy helicopters. Both helicopters are equipped with an external tank (max. volume 1000 U.S. gallons) and have on-board injection systems that are capable of mixing class A foams and water-enhancers.
Currently, there is limited data on comparative drop footprints of foam and water-enhancers (suppressants) for these heavy helicopters. To fill this knowledge gap, AAF has asked FPInnovations to conduct drop tests in different wildland fuel environments. This study focuses on mapping the drop footprints of water, foam, and water-enhancers in an open field at specific flight parameters.
In 2020, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s (AAF) Wildfire Management Branch contracted two externally tanked heavy helicopters with on-board injection and mixing systems. The two heavy helicopters are Sikorsky S-61N helicopters with modified Isolair tanks, capable of dropping water, foam, and water-enhancers. Drop tests were conducted using these helicopters to understand the relative footprints of different suppressants.
This study focuses on using drop footprint data to estimate recovery rates of water, foam, and water-enhancers in two scenarios – an open field and a forested stand. These estimates may provide a primarily understanding of how best different suppressants can be used for different applications.
The Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AFF) Wildfire Management Branch Ignition Specialists Working Group has endorsed a collaborative project to develop a redesigned helitorch. The goal of this project is to have an acceptable and proven replacement helitorch based on extensive testing.
Mulching is a common method of fuel treatment. However, it is not currently listed by the U.S. Forest Service as a fuel type in its recommendations for fire retardant coverage levels. FPInnovations researchers set up plots with different coverage levels of retardant on a mulch fuel bed and collected fire behaviour data when a fire interacted with these plots. The results are intended to help wildfire agencies understand the effectiveness of retardant on mulch fuels in developing better suppression plans.
This study focuses on evaluating the relative performance of different commercially available wildland fire chemicals using a custom-built sensible enthalpy rise calorimeter, known as the ‘Thermal Canister.’ Six different fire chemicals were evaluated in this study: Blazetamer 380, AquaGel-K, Firewall II, WD 881C, Thermo-Gel 200 L, and FireIce 561. The evaluation of the relative performance of the fire chemicals was conducted by using the average heat release rate as the primary metric.
It was found that under the test conditions, Thermo-Gel 200L at 3% concentration and FireIce 561 at 1.4% concentration were the most effective at suppressing combustion. The fire chemicals that were least effective at suppressing combustion were Firewall II at 0.25% and 2% concentration and WD 881C at 0.1%, 0.3%, and 1% concentrations. The study also found that certain fire chemicals such as AquaGel-K and FireIce 561 at their highest approved mix ratios were too viscous to be applied and may prove to be challenging to use for firefighting operations.
Data from this study will be used in the Wildfire Chemical Roadmap, where results from multiple tests will help assess the effectiveness and cost of using gels.
A fuel amendment treatment is proposed as a technique that can allow prescribed burning in hazardous fuels during low to moderate fire hazard conditions to minimize the risk of fire escape. In August 2017, a fuel amendment technique was applied at the Fort Providence Wildfire Experimental Site. In October 2019, a burn trial was conducted in a plot treated with the fuel amendment technique and fire spread to adjacent fuels was documented. Future documentation at this site will include assessing crown mortality to determine the effectiveness of the treatment.
FPInnovations was approached to investigate the extraction of tannin from tree bark in British Columbia (BC). FPInnovations has been working on bark extraction over the last few years and
proposed to focus this study on Western Hemlock which showed high tannin content in previous work. The extraction method developed by FPInnovations uses chemicals and elaborate
equipment that requires the work to be conducted under strongly controlled conditions, such as a chemical laboratory. This report aimed to find a simpler extraction protocol that could potentially be used by coastal First Nations communities or other parties interested in extracting tannin from bark at a relatively small scale.
An important characteristic of the majority of the water-enhancing products on the wildfire suppression market is their ability to increase the viscosity of water. This increase in viscosity is linked to their performance. While performance of these products is key, there are several external variables that can influence how these suppressants physically behave. One such external variable is water quality, which is anecdotally known to impact water-enhancing products.
This study aimed to understand how water quality—in particular, hardness—affects the viscosity of various water-enhancing products at different mix ratios. Understanding how water quality affects the viscosity of these products can offer insight into (1) which products are highly sensitive to water quality changes, and (2) how the target viscosity of a mixed product can be affected by water quality.
Hummingbird Network, a British Columbia company, presented its crowdsourcing wildfire detection concept (the Hummingbird Network Smoke Detection Service) during the 2016 Wildland Fire Canada conference. In January 2017, as a follow-up to the conference, Hummingbird Network provided a live demonstration to AAF, BC Wildfire Service, and FPInnovations in Edmonton, Alberta. After a successful demonstration, and at the request of the wildfire agencies, FPInnovations committed to working with Hummingbird Network to provide an evaluation of its wildfire detection system.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) asked FPInnovations to conduct a field trial of two heavy helicopters that had recently been installed with on-board injection and mixing systems. The study focussed on determining the accuracy and reproducibility of these systems to produce effectively mixed water-enhancers for aerial delivery during wildfire suppression operations.
These field trials were conducted north of Slave Lake, Alta. in June 2020. This report discusses the background, methodology, and outcomes of this equipment validation test.
The ongoing evolution of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPASs) with recent advances in micro-sensors and imaging software has the potential to enhance the delivery of infrared imaging services for wildfire operations. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of these aircraft will aid wildfire managers in selecting appropriate RPAS platforms as another "tool in the toolbox" for hotspot detection missions on wildfires.