Empirical research and modelling suggests that reducing the amount of flammable material in the forest canopy will cause a measurable decrease in fire intensity (ref). Stand thinning involves the selective removal of overstory stems so that spacing between remaining crowns is increased. Past work by Schroeder (2010) has shown that increasing the inter-crown spacing to 3 m can reduce fire behaviour sufficiently to allow firefighters to contain the fire. Three-metre spacing has become the accepted standard by many fire management agencies across Canada, but in some ecosystems—such as Lodgepole Pine stands along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains—3 m crown spacing has led to severe blowdown. These large areas of blowdown are an entirely different, but equally dangerous, fuel hazard. These blowdown events drive up treatment costs and frustrate communities.
This project attempts to determine whether closer inter-crown spacing (1 m) is sufficient to modify fire behaviour. In 2012, we conducted an experimental fire at the Canadian Boreal Community FireSmart Research Site (CBCFRS) in the Northwest Territories. Results were promising, but slow and variable winds prevented us from achieving a 90th percentile fire and altered the desired trajectory of the fire (Mooney 2012). We have prepared a second site at the CBCFRS to repeat the experiment, but we have also set up five study plots within the Hummingbird Capping Unit Prescribe Burn. By coordinating with the prescribed burn operations, we should hope to test our study plots against a 90th percentile crown fire running upslope.