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Fire deficit increases wildfire risk for many communities in the Canadian boreal forest

Author(s): Marc-Andre Parisien, Quinn E. Barber, Kelvin G. Hirsch, Christopher A. Stockdale, Sandy Erni, Xianli Wang, Dominique Arseneault, Sean A. Parks
Year Published: 2020

The top priority of fire management agencies in Canada is to protect human life and property. Here we investigate if decades of aggressive fire suppression in the boreal biome of Canada has reduced the proportion of recently burned forests (RBF; <30 years) near human communities, and thereby inadvertently increased the risk of wildfire. We measured the percentage of RBF, which are usually less flammable than older forests, up to a 25-km radius around communities compared to that in the surrounding regional fire regime zone. Our analysis of 160 communities across boreal Canada shows that 54.4% exhibited a deficit or lack of RBF, whereas only 15.0% showed a surplus. Overall, a majority (74.4%) of communities are surrounded by a low (≤10%) proportion of RBF, indicating a higher vulnerability of those communities to wildfire. These findings suggest that suppression policies are increasing flammability in the wildland–urban interface of boreal Canada.

Citation: Parisien, Marc-Andre; Barber, Quinn E.; Hirsch, Kelvin G.; Stockdale, Christopher A.; Erni, Sandy; Wang, Xianli; Arseneault, Dominique; Parks, Sean A. 2020. Fire deficit increases wildfire risk for many communities in the Canadian boreal forest. Nature Communications 11:2121.
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Weather, Fire Ecology, Fire Effects, Risk, Wildland Urban Interface
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 22832
FRAMES RCS number: 61209
Record updated: Mar 22, 2021