Canadian Fire Science Exchange Day Recap

The North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange (NAFSE) teamed up with the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Compact to hold a workshop at the fall meeting of the Atlantic Forest Fire Managers in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The theme of the meeting addressed a common concern on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border: the potential impact of spruce budworm on fuels and fire behavior in our forests.

On September 14, 2016, over 60 forest fire managers and other natural resource professionals gathered at the Hugh John Fleming Forestry Complex Theatre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The "science day" has become a staple of the Atlantic Forest Fire Managers' end-of-season operations meeting, allowing these professionals to spend a day focusing on the science behind their work. The Fire Science Exchange Day was orchestrated by Stephen Tulle, a Forest Ranger in the Wildfire Training Unit with the government of New Brunswick.

The day featured three in-depth presentations and visits to labs and test sites that comprehensively told the story of the growing threat of spruce budworm and fire hazard in the North Atlantic. Drew Carleton, Provincial Entomologist for New Brunswick, outlined the basics of the spruce budworm life cycle and what that means for opportunities to monitor populations and detect outbreaks. Carleton outlined the options for action during an outbreak, which could range from doing nothing and accepting an estimated $6.7 billion loss to the New Brunswick economy to implementing an early intervention strategy to alter spruce budworm population trends. Carleton described the Early Intervention Strategy Program of the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency and the effects it might have on the pest, the forest, and other biota.

The next two speakers addressed fire behavior. Mike Wotton, a Research Scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, presented on Fuels and fire behaviour potential in Spruce Budworm impacted forests: the FBP System and beyond. Wotton described the evolution of the FPB model, ongoing research and geographic applications, and recent updates that have been made to more specifically address budworm-killed or similar stands. One rule of thumb to consider is that the rate of flame spread increases ten years after a pest attack. Bill DeGroot, also a Research Scientist with the Canadian Forest Service presented on Using CanFIRE to calculate fire behaviour in SBW affected forests. DeGroot walked participants through a run of the CanFIRE model, which is available for free online as a web application or as an Excel spreadsheet. A frightening take-home from these calculations is that in a stand of dead balsam fir, fire could spread 2.7 times faster than live stands; budworm-killed stands are "a highly explosive fuel type" under the wrong conditions.

The afternoon of the workshop included tours of provincial and national labs studying the budworm and tracking its spread through the Canadian Maritimes. The tours included a look at the entire process from the suite of monitoring traps for moths to the processing of branches to count spruce budworm larvae. The July 27 mass-migration event of spruce budworm moths into New Brunswick was also discussed. This event was picked up by Doppler radar and looked like snow. Moth carcasses flew thick through the air and had to be shoveled away. Trees swarmed by moths appeared to be moving of their own accord. The workshop participants left with an in-depth understanding of the threat posed by this forest pest to the forest and the associated fire danger for which we must prepare.

Copies of the presentations can be found on the event page and more photos from the workshop can be found on the flickr page. Also, check out our Canadian focused research brief on WUI delineation in Nova Scotia and major fire history in New England and the Atlantic provinces as well as our webinar on mountain pine beetle associated with this workshop.

This summary was submitted by Amanda Mahaffey.