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.
Data was collected within a burned out area on a steep mountain slope as part of FPInnovations’s Survival Zone project. The fire was a prescribed burn carried out by Parks Canada in Jasper National Park. The data collected shows that in this one instance, that temperatures and heat flux values fell within survivable range for firefighters wearing PPE. This report does not condone firefighters above a fire on a steep slope, but rather this PB was used as a data collecting opportunity.
This study investigated the effects of applying three mulch treatment intensities on fuel bed characteristics and the resultant fire behaviour. This is a companion report to a previously published report titled Mulching productivity in black spruce fuels: Productivity as a function of treatment intensity. The findings of these fire behaviour trials, in conjunction with productivity results, can assist fuel management practitioners in developing appropriate cost-effective mulching prescriptions.
The City of Quesnel, B.C. has applied an innovative selective harvesting technique in a mature Douglas-fir forest stand with the objectives of maintaining biodiversity and reducing fuel-load buildup and consequent wildfire threat. FPInnovations researchers monitored and documented the harvesting operations and measured machine productivity to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the operation.
To support the assessment of fuel-load reduction, FPInnovations’ Wildfire Operations group conducted pre- and post-harvest fuel-sampling activities to evaluate changes in forest fuel components.
This guide was developed by FPInnovations and its partners to assist in the design and construction of durable and energy-efficient wood-frame buildings in Alberta. The Province adopted the National Energy Code for Buildings 2011, as of November 1, 2016, in order to comply with the energy-efficiency requirements for large buildings (Part 3). It is now also possible, with new building regulations, to build wood structures with a maximum of six storeys or 18 m height in Alberta. This guide aims to provide solutions for the building envelope (enclosure) of Part 3 wood buildings, particularly five- and six-storey wood-frame buildings, to meet the prescriptive thermal requirements of the new energy code. A range of wood-based exterior wall and roof assemblies are covered, based on light wood frame or mass timber, and various thermal insulation materials are discussed. Effective R-values are calculated based on typical thermal insulation values of commonly used materials. This document also covers key considerations for building envelope design to maintain long-term durability in Alberta’s varied climate.
Wetlands are a critical and valued component of boreal landscapes in northeastern Alberta, and they comprise a significant proportion of operational tenures within the in-situ oil sands region. While companies have made progress on avoidance and mitigation strategies to reduce their impacts to wetlands, they also face many common challenges, including pad, road, and culvert settlement; culvert bowing and failure; and tree mortality or other vegetation changes in wetlands adjacent to roads. This
document compiles a toolbox of shared practices currently in use by COSIA companies, or which have been used but were found to be unsuccessful.
This study details the energy intensity, or litres per cubic metre, for each phase of a conventional pulp wood harvest in northern Alberta. One feller-buncher, two grapple skidders, and two dangle-head processors were studied and evaluated.
FPInnovations, in cooperation with Alberta Transportation and the Laval University i3C Chair, undertook a review of the starting threshold for initiating winter weight hauling in Alberta. The objective of this project was to conduct an engineering analysis of freezing pavements to determine the minimum frost depth at which log hauling at winter weight premiums (WWP) in Alberta could start without compromising pavement service life. The report describes literature on freezing pavement engineering, Canadian winter weight policies, a controlled trafficking simulation of an instrumented pavement as it was frozen, and subsequent modeling to valiidate results and extrapolate results ot a wider range of pavement structures. It was recommended that the current 1.0 m starting frost depth threshold be reduced to a depth of 700 mm.
Innovative technologies for recovering woody biomass have the potential to reduce production costs and increase the utilization of biomass in the field. FPInnovations, in collaboration with the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, evaluated the potential of the Gyro-Trac bioenergy baling system (BBS) to process timber-harvesting residues into commercial biomass. This evaluation occurred between January and March 2015 in the Saddle Hills of Alberta which are located approximately 125 km northwest of Grande Prairie.
This report describes the machine’s productivity while processing small deciduous decks and conifer debris piles resulting from the salvage of mountain pine beetle impacted stands.
Class A foam “lowers water’s surface tension making it more effective in suppressing fire in Class A combustibles (wood, vegetation, paper and cotton products and rubber)” (ICL Performance Products LP, n.d.). Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has used class A liquid foam and liquid foam inductor kits in wildfire suppression since the 1980s. Although class A liquid foam has proven to be an effective tool, promoting the consistent use of it in Alberta has been a challenge since its introduction. Firefighter reluctance to use class A foam is often linked to reasons such as set-up time, working with the foam solution, system awkwardness, and anecdotal comparisons to straight water.
Alberta’s Provincial Warehouse and Service Centre (PWSC) was approached by ICL Performance Products LP (ICL) regarding a new class A foam system, the Phos-Chek SOLID Foam Stick and Scotty Foam-Fast Applicator. The foam stick and applicator were promoted by ICL as a simple and effective way of producing low-expansion class A foam using minimal equipment. Following an ICL presentation to Alberta’s PWSC and Fireline Equipment Working Group (FEWG), a decision was made to pursue field trials before considering a large-scale purchase.
To facilitate field trials, the PWSC purchased several applicators and a supply of foam sticks with the intent of having their firefighters assess the system. Further discussion by the group identified a lack of consistent evaluation criteria and a need for documented, fact-based test results. In follow-up, the PWSC requested assistance from Alberta’s Wildfire Management Science and Technology (WMST) program to engage a research provider, and in March of 2015, they asked FPInnovations to conduct an evaluation of the Phos-Chek SOLID Foam Stick (formulation ID #049-019F) and the Scotty Foam-Fast Applicator (model 4010-50).
FPInnovations worked with the WMST program working group, PWSC manager, and designated FEWG members to review research questions, project needs and develop the following project objectives.
Forest fuels engineering is one of the primary wildfire mitigation strategies advocated by FireSmart™ Canada and applied by partnering wildfire management agencies and industry operators. Fuel treatments have been extensively applied in and around communities in the wildland-urban interface, through a broad range of fuel modification techniques. A primary objective of fuel treatments is to modify fire behaviour to a ‘less difficult, disruptive, and destructive’ state (Reinhardt et al. 2008) which can allow for safer, more effective fire suppression operations (Moghaddas and Craggs 2007).
Black spruce is one of the most prevalent fuel types surrounding communities in central and northern Alberta, as well as other parts of boreal Canada. The densely stocked black spruce forest stands in the Red Earth Creek FireSmart research area exhibit typical crown fuel properties of black spruce: high crown bulk density and low crown base height, which contribute to crown fire initiation (Van Wagner 1977). These fuel characteristics, combined with low fuel moisture contents and strong winds, create ideal conditions for high-intensity, rapidly-spreading catastrophic wildfire (Flat Top Complex Wildfire Review Committee 2012).
Mulch fuel treatments use various types of equipment to masticate forest vegetation resulting in a reduction in crown bulk density and the conversion of canopy and ladder fuels to a more compacted and less available fuel source in the surface layer (Battaglia et al. 2010). Mulch thinning and strip mulch treatments create a more open surface fuel environment with both negative and positive impacts. Due to increased exposure to sun and wind flow, the chipped debris and other surface fuels in the open areas of the treatments dry more quickly than fine fuels in enclosed stands (Schiks and Wotton 2015). From a control perspective, the open thinned areas of the treatments allow more effective penetration of water/suppressant through canopy fuels to surface fuels (Hsieh in progress). Additionally, fine fuels at the surface of openings respond more quickly to water and suppressant application. Open areas of the treatments that have been wetted by sprinkler systems or aerial water delivery should reduce the potential for ignition and sustained burning, providing a potential barrier to fire spread.
Experimental crown fires have been conducted to challenge fuels treatments in other forest fuel types (Schroeder 2010, Mooney 2013) to evaluate the efficacy of these treatments in moderating fire behaviour. Mechanical (shearblading) fuel treatments in black spruce fuels (Butler et al. 2013) have been shown to reduce fire intensity. However, documentation of crown fire challenging mulch fuel treatments in black spruce fuels is limited. Fire and fuels managers would like to evaluate the effectiveness of mulch fuel treatments in reducing fire intensity and rate of spread and, ultimately, their ability to mitigate wildfire risk to communities surrounding these hazardous fuels.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) Wildfire Management Branch fuels managers designed the Red Earth Creek FireSmart research area with the objective of conducting research that will lead to a better understanding of mulch fuel treatments and how these changes in the black spruce fuel environment affect fire behaviour. On May 14, 2015, Slave Lake Forest Area personnel conducted an experimental fire at this site; FPInnovations and research partners collected data to document changes in fire behaviour.
This study focused on the energy intensity of four loaders loading and unloading logging trucks in a Northern Alberta forest operation. The study also measured the productivity and fuel consumption of one loader at two reduced engine RPM settings in order to determine the optimum machine setting for lower energy intensity.
We surveyed fire behaviour experts and wildlife biologists to rank the importance of four factors that affect the costs and benefits of seven post-harvest debris treatments and to determine the overall costs of each treatment to the forest industry and Alberta’s government. The four factors are fire behaviour potential, wildlife suitability, regeneration capability, and treatment costs.
An effort was made to replicate, in Alberta, a white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench.) Voss) sample obtained in British Columbia in which a spurt of rapid growth, analogous to a release event, coincided with a reduction in average wood density such that it was the lowest of 11 samples obtained in western Canada. White spruce trees were systematically sampled by 30, 40 and 50 cm diameter-at-breast height (DBH) classes from two natural stands one located near Hinton and one north of Grande Prairie. Mean ages of the tree samples were 104 and 108 years respectively. Based on eighty-one sample trees selected, site indices at breast-height age 50 were 19.3 and 18.5 respectively. Wood basic relative density was determined at breast height for each sample tree by x-ray densitometry of increment cores. Unlike previous samples obtained in Alberta, differences in mean wood density between stands were significant with values of 0.33 at Hinton and 0.35 at Grande Prairie. Mean relative density values for the 30, 40 and 50 cm DBH classes for the two samples combined were 0.36, 0.33 and 0.33 respectively compared to the species average of 0.354. ANOVA of basic relative density on DBH and stand (R2= 0.44) revealed that the effect of DBH (rate-of-growth) was significant (p = .0001). Within both stands, wood density of the 30 cm DBH class was significantly higher (a = 0.05) than that of the 40 and 50 cm DBH classes, between which wood density was not significantly different. In the Hinton sample this lack of difference between the 40 and 50 cm classes resulted from equivalent early annual growth rates. Difference in size occurred because the 50 cm trees were established about 10 years earlier. In the Grande Prairie sample growth rate in the 50 cm class was only moderately rapid. Pith-to-bark density trends were inversely related to ring width trends, consistent with previous trends observed in white spruce. A spurt of rapid growth in the Hinton sample coincided with a lower average wood density. This lends credence to similar results obtained in the earlier British Columbia sample. Foresters wanting to manage white spruce for value should consider these results when planning a thinning or overstory removal that accelerates growth rate in residual stands. The results should interest woodlands managers seeking to maximize current harvest value through more informed log allocation decisions.
FPInnovations investigated the effectiveness of mowing grass to reduce potential fire behaviour in corridors in Alberta. Plots of grass mowed in the spring or the previous fall were spring burned alongside plots of standing grass, and fire behaviour was documented. Results showed that mowing does influence fire behaviour in grass, and that season of mowing affects fire intensity. Mowing the grass in spring decreased the fire intensity values by 50% relative to no mowing, and fire intensity values decreased by a further 50% if mowing was completed in the fall.
Une opération forestière dans le nord de l'Alberta se sert de matériaux à texture fine trouvés sur place pour construire ses routes d'accès temporaires, lesquelles sont utilisées dans des conditions de gel et de non-gel. Les véhicules de transport qui y circulent sont équipés de systèmes de gonflage central des pneus afin de réduire les dommages à la route et d'améliorer la mobilité. Ce premier de deux rapports décrit une évaluation du design et de la construction de routes d'accès temporaires mises en usage l'année même de leur construction; quantifie les économies d'entretien par nivelage résultant du compactage de surface et de l'emploi de pressions de pneu optimisées; et discute de la validation d'un modèle d'orniérage du USDA Forest Service et de son potentiel d'utilisation dans d'autres applications.
A catastrophic mountain pine beetle infestation (MPB) in British Columbia is now a serious threat to lodgepole pine forests in Alberta, a resource valued at 23 billion dollars. Latest aerial surveys in BC show that the infestation has spread well into the Peace River region. Ground surveys in the adjacent Smoky Forest region in Alberta have now identified more than 2.5 million infested trees up from less than 300 in 2006. Hybrid pines in the northern boreal forest are being attacked. Successful large-scale attack of jack pine forest will have serious economic social and environmental implications for both Alberta and Canada.
In January 2007, Alberta Advanced Education and Technology commissioned Forintek Canada Corp, the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC), the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (Paprican) and the Alberta Research Council (ARC) to provide a comprehensive review and synthesis of existing research on mountain pine beetle (western Canada and the US) with a focus on the forest value chain including: detection, control, management, regeneration, harvesting and transportation, fibre quality and processing of mountain pine beetle -attacked timber; and of existing research on market protection, product and market potential for post-MPB wood products, pulp and paper products, bioenery, biofuel, and biochemicals; and of the socio-economic issues of industry competitiveness and sustainability. The review was to include expert assessments of available research and identify gaps in the state-of-knowledge along the forest value chain with a focus on issues relevant to the optimum utilization (volume and value) associated with a possible MPB epidemic in Alberta.
Builders’ risk insurance (also known as course of construction insurance) is the insurance that a builder buys to protect himself in the event of a loss on a building during construction. This project examines the scope and possible causes of recent increases in builders’ risk insurance in Alberta, with a particular focus on insurance premiums specific to wood construction. In addition, the project explores the potential for tools or information, targeted to builders or to insurance brokers, that could lower builders’ insurance costs. Although insurance represents only a small portion of total construction costs, significant increases recently in builders’ risk premiums in Alberta have attracted attention and have placed added pressure on Alberta builders with respect to their competitiveness. Increases in builders’ risk premiums could represent a threat to the market for wood products if builders turn to non-combustible alternatives in order to save insurance costs. Furthermore, market development activities for wood in the non-residential construction sector will be hindered as increased builders’ risk costs represent a barrier to entry.
Alberta Alliance Project No. 5130-06 pertaining to Building construction - Cost; Business management