Alberta Agriculture and Forestry asked FPInnovations to evaluate the patented Trident Pump System developed by Younkers Wielding for the system's suitability for wildfire operations. This report summarizes the author's observations and thoughts.
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.
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.
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.
Forest fuels engineering is one of the primary wildfire mitigation strategies advocated by FireSmart™ Canada (Partners in Protection, 2003) and applied by partnering wildfire management agencies and industry operators. Over the past two decades, mechanical forest fuel treatments (including mulching) have been extensively applied in and around communities in the wildland-urban interface to mitigate the risk of wildfire. Fuel managers and fire operations managers would like to better understand how manual and mechanical fuel treatments modify fire behaviour.
Fuel treatment efficacy has been evaluated through post-wildfire case studies (Mooney, 2014; Pritchard et al., 2011), fire behaviour modelling (Fernandes, 2009; Stephens et al., 2009) and subjective expert opinion based approaches (Hayes et al., 2008). The use of experimental fire to evaluate the effectiveness of fuel treatments is limited.
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.
In May 2017 FPInnovations conducted an initial field assessment of a helicopter on-board system for mixing water-enhancing gel concentrate at Fort Vermillion. For this study, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry contracted a Bell 214B helicopter with on-board gel mixing capability. The helicopter company chose Firewall II gel and an Isolair external tank to meet the contract requirements.
This Info Note presents FPInnovations’ observations of the ability of the on-board mixing system to effectively mix Firewall II gel with water.
Alberta helitorch has been in service for over 20 years, and based on helitorch life expectancy and the advancements in technology, Alberta wildfire management staff decided to explore design improvements and construction of a replacement helitorch prototype.
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.
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.