Living with fire in the boreal forest
Media Type: Presentation
Date: 2009

Cataloging Information

  • boreal forest
  • Canada
  • fuels management
  • wildfire threat
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Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 2, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 58709


Solutions to the wildland-urban interface or intermix (WUI) fire problem may vary considerably across ecosystems. A case in point is the boreal forest regions of northern Canada and Alaska - i.e., 'northern solutions are needed for northern problems'. This lecture recapitulates a series of presentations given at several different forums in the Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, Alaska, Alberta and Saskatchewan between 1996-2001 and reflects the author's 35+ year experience as a 'student of wildland fire'. These presentations were designed to heighten the awareness about the wildfire threat to community safety and to propose possible long-term solutions that would possibly mitigate against the chances of a northern community being exposed to a high-intensity crown fire occurrence that so readily typifies the boreal forest fire regime. Using existing knowledge acquired from research studies and operational experiences, the topics covered with illustrative photos, graphs and video footage (e.g., 1996 Millers Reach Fire, Alaska) included historical fire incidence, fire ecology and fire behavior principles, and the physical limits of fire suppression effectiveness. The concept of catastrophic fire prevention through fuels management as a means of achieving harmony with nature was advanced on the basis that the elimination of ignition risk in the WUI was not foreseen at possible and that addressing the 'fuel' component of the fire environment triangle offers the only possible course of action left open. This may involve logging and/or prescribed burning, including high intensity crown fires. The ultimate intent of undertaking these presentations was to galvanize local community support to lobby local, territorial or provincial, and federal government bodies to initiate development of fuel vegetation management plans at the stand and landscape scale that would ensure that northern communities could minimize the impact and/or their exposure to the incidence of a wildfire burning under extreme fire weather conditions. While it does seem theoretically possible to completely eliminate the threat of at least human-caused conflagrations, this is unlikely to happen. Even with the most highly effective fire prevention, fuels management and fire suppression programs, it seems that the possibility of members of the public will encounter a high-intensity wildfire event at some point in their lives is ever increasing as long as they continue to live, recreate, and work in a fire-prone environment such as the boreal forest. Co-existence or living with fire involves taking a proactive stance, including being prepared for the day when wildfire comes knocking!

Alexander, M. E. 2009. Living with fire in the boreal forest - powerpoint. Invited presentation at the 13th Annual General Meeting of Partners in Protection, Oct. 14-16, 2009, Jasper, Alberta.
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Link to this recording (17 MB; pdf)