Fire Fighting in Canada

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New land designation to help Canadian communities manage wildfire risk

May 18, 2023 
By The Canadian Press


May 18, 2023, Toronto – GHD is introducing Burntfields, a new land designation and approach to help combat wildfires resulting from climate change, drier vegetation, and continuous urban expansion into areas previously considered remote.

Burntfields describes the wildland urban interface – where wilderness meets developed land – areas that have been or could be environmentally, socially and economically harmed by wildfire. The new land designation was conceived as a counterpart to Brownfields, which refers to previously developed lands; and Greenfields, which refers to those sites that have never been developed.

GHD’s Burntfields Wildfire Risk Management Solution focuses on keeping people and property safe by determining what drives wildfire risks, where and when those risks can occur and offering effective solutions to improve business and community resiliency. Burntfields employs vulnerability assessments and scenario-based computer modelling to address wildfire risks by proactively working with stakeholders to develop:

  • Early prevention and mitigation plans
  • Wildfire preparedness and response actions and
  • Recovery strategies

“Destructive wildfires are a climate change wake-up call as they’re becoming more frequent, more severe and more devastating. Population migration to previously unsettled areas has resulted in unprecedented wildfire risk in many communities,” said Roy Thun, senior environmental specialist at GHD. “Our Burntfields Wildfire Risk Management approach allows communities to properly prepare, prevent and mitigate wildfires, respond to fire-related emergencies and aid businesses, residents and the environment in recovery.”

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Almost all of Alberta as well as much of Saskatchewan, parts of British Columbia and a large area in Northwest Territories currently face extreme fire risks.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, a not-for-profit corporation owned and operated by federal, provincial, and territorial wildland fire management agencies, there are currently 208 active wildfires across Canada, and more than 1,375 so far in 2023 with over 1.3 million hectares burned (data taken May 17).

Federal and provincial governments are increasingly stretched thin by the frequency and intensity of wildfires. The data of the effects of wildfires across Canada are staggering:

  • Since 2011, wildland fire management services across Canada have invested nearly $1.4 billion per year
  • 5,449 fires were recorded in 2022, burning over 1.6 million hectares
  • On average, 2.3 billion hectares have burned annually since 2000

“Communities need to assess their needs to develop the proper mitigation and protection strategy based on their specific needs such as moving people out of danger faster, developing a more managed response or to add roads or improve road capacity,” said Thun. “Our goal is to provide the best data to community planners so they can act to ensure maximum safety for residents. A combination of public and private sector resources is necessary to address all Burntfields risks in unison.”


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