Minutes of the Wildland Fire Operations Research Centre (WFORC)

Northern Forestry Centre (CFS) Pine Room


September 20 2002


In attendance:


Marty Alexander (CFS)

Don Podlubny (FMF)

Kelly O’Shea (ALPAC)

Alex Sinclair (FERIC)

Warren Kehr (Weldwood)

Con Dermmott (Vanderwell Contractors)

Mike          (Yukon)

Darryl Jessop (Saskatchewan)

Rob W (Saskatchewan)

Judi Beck (BCFS)

Mark Coolen (Millar Western)

Gary Dakin (SRD/FERIC)

Greg Baxter (FERIC)

Marv Clark (FERIC – Chairperson)

Dave Schroeder (FERIC)

Ray Ault (FERIC)

Rex Hsieh (FERIC)


Missing (??) National Parks


Meeting began at 0900.


Marv Clark welcomed the group and went through the voting procedure, who was allowed to vote and the building rules. He also gave a brief overview of  agenda.


Voting Procedures: Only current Committee members able to vote.  Scoring: One times number of High votes; 2 times number of Medium votes; three times number of Low votes; these are all summed and then divided by the number of votes. The lowest score (with 1 being the lowest possible has the highest ranking).


The minutes from the  March meeting were brought forward and were accepted. Dennis Driscoll brought the motion and Don Podlubny  seconded them.


Comments: Alex Sinclair wants the previous minutes to be attached to the mail-out package.


The group then introduced themselves, name and organisation.


Project: Infrared Scanning. Ray Ault.

Ray reviewed the work done in 2001 by Judi Beck and then went on to review the field work that took place this summer.


The primary output from the 2001 work is the Probability of Detection Tables that were produced for the AWIS system. This information was used to during the fieldwork portion of 2002. The field work included taking AWIS output and walking  a fire to find the hotspots detected by AWIS as well as those that it missed. All spots were measured for temeperature and size. The analysis on this data is still to be completed.


Other systematic problems were noted for the current way the AWIS system is used.


Number of barriers in effectively using the AWIS hot spot data on the fireline

Timeliness of data

GPS format of hot spots

Presentation of information to crews

GPS tools and training


Q. Alex Sinclair asked if AWIS people will change their system to make it faster? Answer:


Missing fires can be assessed with the P (detection) tables.


Q. Marty Alexander – how far from perimeter is this used?

Dennis Driscoll – goal was a guideline for a tool. ‘Here is what you expect when using it’.

Don P. did you find more hotspots?

Judi Beck – there are limits for sensor – some spots will be missed.



Project: Web-site. Rex Hsieh.


Rex presented all the functions of the web site and then showed the group how the web site is being used by interested parties. Rex showed both the ‘return’ visits data as well as which projects attract the most hits.




Judi Beck – what ways are there to increase the number of hits. Rex explains certain techniques.


Alex Sinclair – a primary objective of the website was to provide a virtual library – a source where those in operations can go to find out more information on their area of interest. Rex showed the resources on site through the use of the Search tool. All papers used are included with outlines and the physical location of the papers. Alex wanted this service to remain a focus.


Alex also asked if there was a ‘Link’ section. At this time there is not – but we can build these in.


AP – Group would like a mid-term report on the Links site.


Project: Top-piles. Greg Baxter


Greg reviewed what has been accomplished this year and summarised what is left to be done.


The outputs completed in this project during the past year are as follows:

1.      Report: ‘Analysis of the occurrence and cause of fires in slash fuels in Alberta for the period 1961-2000’. On web-site.

2.      Report: ‘Management of harvesting debris along the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains’. This report provides recommendations for top-pile burning along the South-Eastern Slopes region of Alberta. Advantage Report – out by October 7th.

3.      Case Study: ‘RWF-002 2002, January 3 - 10 2002, Nordegg, Alberta - A Case study of an excursion from top-piles’. This case study examined the fire behaviour and cause of an excursion caused by a Chinook along the east slopes. On web-site.

4.      Case Study: ‘Issues arising from Observed fire behaviour in aspen cutblocks during the House River Fire in Alberta in May-June 2002 - A Case Study’. This report investigates the problems and concerns resulting from fire behaviour in cutblocks during the House River Fire. Discussion stage.

5.      Report: ‘Recommendations for Top-Pile Management for the East-Central Region of Alberta or where Aspen is the Primary harvested Species’. This report will be out for comments September 2002. Discussion stage.

Following the completion of this region, there are two other regions that will be studied. The west-central region (north of 53o N latitude along the eastern slopes and east to Whitecourt) of which the slash fire history has been completed, but field trips are still required to visit both industry and government personnel in the area. Finally, the northern region is to be studied as it also is becoming a busier region for the forest industry.

December 30, 2002 the initial recommendations should be concluded. Edits and printing will most-likely take longer.


Comments: Kelly O’Shea. These projects may be used for Policy and therefore accuracy is critical.


This was followed by bringing forward a Potential Research Project for 2002.




Assess treatments to reduce fire hazard and fire rate of spread along right of ways dedicated to utility operations.


  1. measure current fuel loadings and rate the hazard posed by linear disturbances
  2. identify and compare linear disturbance treatments.
  3. recommend minimum frequency of treatments, (minimum size of treated areas, spacing between treatment areas and how often treatment is needed) to effectively reduce the risk of continuous fire spread along a line.
  4. develop a treatment guide for field use



Quantify and compare the fuels and risk conditions associated with linear disturbance.


Determine fuel loading and associate levels of risk.

Use fire history to determine when these fires occur and conditions when lines are most susceptible to wicking.


Identify the various methods or treatments that can be used to reduce the fuels. 


Document how fuel changes during the year and how this effects risk.




Produce a field guide to assess site fire hazard and identify potential treatments such as mow, disc, mulch or graze.


Voting: High 5 Medium 2 Low 0. Total score: 1.29


Project: Footwear for Firefighters. Ray Ault.


Ray reviewed the finished Advantage Report which were received in Hinton on September 23.


Final conclusion of the analysis is that TOES are not the issue. His report has been received by SRD and has been used for new policies.


Ray also mentioned that the web-site has been updated and that firefighters are able to see how to fit boots correctly as well as view the boots from selected manufacturers that the WFORC recommends as appropriate footwear for Alberta firefighters. Rough costs are $150 for a pair of decent boots.


Comments: Saskatchewan very interested in the outcome of the report as they are dealing with the same issue.


Alex Sinclair - Reports will be on web-site and mailed within 2 weeks.


Project: Travel Rates. Gary Dakin.


Gary provided a summary of what was accomplished during the 2001 field season in the travel rates project. He also updated the committee on the trials on slope which took place this week in Hinton. The Edson crew (four members) had four runs on a 250 metre slope near Entrance. These were very challenging to the fire crew.


The data is currently at the U of A where it is being analysed and being looked at for statistical soundness (how many runs are required to have ‘solid’ results). More work on slope will be done and depending on the results from the U of A, more trials in the other fuel types may be required.




Marty A. asked if this has increased the participants safety consciousness – Gary said the crews are aware of how safety can be increased even by just flagging a safety route.


Warren Kehr – fitness is the key – this message needs to get out to all involved in fire.


Judi Beck – could get the case study of the BC logger incident (Kingston) and have that on the web-site.

AP – will put the case study on the web-site.


Regarding Proposal to develop a ‘training video’ of the travel rates work – Con Dermott stated it should just be included in the project and the project should continue as is. This was accepted by the group.


Judi Beck asked if the run results were being compared to the shuttle run data (heart rate data). Gary said it was.


Marty A. mentioned the Mann Gulch fire could be used as an example of showing travel rates and fire rates of spread to illustrate what these results mean to the firefighter.


Project: NWT. Ray Ault.


Ray provided a short blurb on the status of the work taking place at the International Crown Fire Modelling Experiment in the NWT. He said this years burning was cancelled due to a high water table. Plans are still in place to return if burning is to be carried out. There are chances to work on burning the house, the use of sprinklers and the impact of thinning at the ICFME.


Project: Sprinklers. Gary Dakin.


Gary provided an overview of the field observations made during the 2002 fire season. The fire season provided many examples of the use of sprinklers in an interface situation. Many photos and observations were made and some valuable information came from this work. Gary then developed an area to test both sprinkler output (rainfall equivalent) and a technique to investigate whether a ‘humidity’ and temperature dome does exist. The information regarding the sprinkler methodology is available on the web-site,

The findings from his field observations are to be made into a report and forwarded to the SRD as findings may be sensitive.


Comments: Marty A. Why are sprinklers on roof? (Tradition).

Look at Kootenai National Park – Mt. Shanks fire for humidity dome theory.


Judi Beck – humidity dome related to length of time water is run.

Marty A. – on experimental fires, downwind sees an increase in RH (long term).

Dennis Driscoll – educate public on what pumps they are able to use. This needs testing and the information needs to get out. Soaker hose a good idea – will it work on roof?

Saskatchewan – ran out of Mark III pumps this summer due to sprinklers. Other pumps can be used – need this information.

Ray – is there a need for a homeowner kit? We could develop one.


AP – Ray to talk to Warren Kehr regarding a larger area to test sprinklers.


Judi – what was foam concentration during testing (unknown). Should set up moisture sticks. What was the pattern of the effective foam.


Project: Detection. Greg Baxter and Dave Schroeder.


Greg began by reviewing the projects objectives and then telling the group how the WFORC has approached it. The project was broken into three sections. An investigation into what other agencies are doing and how effective they are. The development of a questionnaire sent to all 131 tower personnel. The questionnaire has four sections that ask how they believe their work could become more efficient. Finally, new technologies are also being investigated.


A trip with SRD was made to Quebec to see how they made the transition from a fixed detection network (300-400 towers) to an exclusive aerial detection system. Their aircraft detect 30% of the fires in the protection zone (55 million hectares). They have 4 regions with districts within each region. Daily routes are programmed in to a computer ‘chip’ that is put in the GPSF system of each plane. The aircraft follow the route which has been programmed into the chip. The aircraft are all ‘followed’ out of a main centre in Quebec City. The routes can be altered based on hazard, visibility and time of day they are flown. This system costs $2 million (only aircraft costs) for the fire season. Quebec uses 33 aircraft.


Comments: Saskatechewan has only 8 aircraft sub-contracted to them for detection. These work in conjunction with the towers left in the province. Together these account for 43% of all reported fires (only 8 planes).

Not fair to compare Quebec data to Alberta’s – with different objectives.



The questionnaire sent to all tower personnel was developed to see if any information could be gathered on the front lines to improve the efficiency of the detection system used in Alberta at this time. The questionnaire had sections on safety, equipment, technology and procedural in hopes some responses may lead to improvements in the overall system. Results will be compiled and then forwarded to SRD.


Lunch – reconvene at 12:30.


Detection using Video Cameras.


Dave Schroeder presented an overview of his project that investigated the use of a Video Camera Surveillance System to Detect Wildfire Smoke. This update is available on the web-site.


Video camera technology sophistication and cost have evolved and are now used in a variety of applications. There may be potential to use video cameras to augment or enhance existing lookout operations. Potential applications include blind spot coverage, campground monitoring, and surveillance of slash pile burning.  The systems may be used on temporary, mobile towers; thus, adding flexibility to SRD’s existing wildfire detection system.


The objective of this project is to determine if commonly available surveillance video cameras can be used to detect fires within the criteria set by SRD.


Cameras were mounted and smoke bombs set off in the visible area. A video surveillance system was acquired to evaluate the vision capability, durability and

 controllability of a pan, tilt, zoom (PTZ) video systems. The camera was equipped with a 300 mm zoom lens, and UV and polarizer filters.





Next steps:


An operational trial will be done in 2003 to test the camera at a working lookout tower.


Comments: Don Podlubny – some light filters work better in smoke.

Privacy issue – if used around campgrounds people may object.

Warren Kehr – could be used in random camping areas.

Alex Sinclair – have to be  cautious of the infringement on human rights.

Saskatchewan – this issue has been talked about and needs investigation in Saskatchewan.

Don Podlubny – could be used to monitor a wildfire.

Warren Kehr – also for winter burning.


Project Proposal:




Test the camera in a working tower over a fire season.  A remote site (i.e., away from the tower) will be used to control and monitor the camera.




Confirmation of video camera surveillance systems as an operationally feasible technique for fire detection.




A surveillance system will be installed at a tower that is within broadcasting range of a manned monitoring site (e.g., SRD office).  Monitor personnel will maintain a log of camera performance that will be summarized by FERIC at the end of the fire season.


Vote:  High 3 Medium 3 Low 1. Score 1.71.


Project: Stand Density. Dave Schroeder.


Dave reviewed the work that has taken place this field season at the Demo 2000 site near Kelowna BC and in the Calling Lake area where the CFS has a number of plots where multiple agencies are doing research.


Partial results and the methodology are available on the WFORC website of the work that took place in BC.


Research Questions.

A) Thinning may be used to build:

• Defensive corridors that reduce fire severity

• Fire operations control points

What thinning prescriptions might  reduce fire severity in boreal conifers so that suppression can be effective?


B) Commercially thinned stands are common

      across boreal landscapes. 


What is the potential fire behavior in these stands?

Ignition probability

Model results of two-minute ignition tests against fuel moisture, weather, and fire weather indices.

Surface and crown fire

Quantify potential behavior using Canadian FBP system and BEHAVE model.   


As expected, thinned stands with no slash treatment had the highest ignition frequency compared to thinned stands with slash removed and unthinned stands. 

• Ignition success was most frequent during the late afternoon. 

• Slight changes in humidity and temperature influenced ignition probability. 

• Surface winds sometimes made the difference between ignition and failure


Future Work


•Fire behavior models will be run over the winter for DEMO 2000 data.


• Ignition trials are planned for Calling Lake for several seasons.  Features of this research site are:

• A replicated experiment with 3 thinning prescriptions

• Data sharing with CFS (vegetation and climate)

• Ability to measure effect of slash decomposition over time


•Ignition trial locations will be finalized for commercial and defensive corridor thinnings within lodgepole pine stands, and trials will commence next summer.




Don Podlubny – contact Foothills Model Forest (Dick  Demster or Dave Andison).

Marty – ignition potential – not fire behaviour until you can do larger scale experimental fires.

Mike (Yukon) – decomposition of litter left on site is important.

Judi Beck – look up decomp and thinning (Taylor, Steve late 1980’s) or Peter Fuglem.


Project: Protective Headwear. Ray Ault


Advantage Report will be out in November. U of A has not sent comments yet.


Ray highlighted the findings from the U of A study on headwear and core temperatures. Outcome was that there was no measurable change in core body temperature from wearing the side-impact headwear, although in-helmet temperatures were 3C higher with these helmets. The report has been handed to the SRD.


Comments – Con Dermott; why aren’t the helmets adjustable?


In-camera Video.

Ray briefly talked about the development of a device that can be used to start in-fire video cameras from afar. These cameras can be used to view interface areas as well as capturing video on fire behaviour in thinned stands. The U of A are working on the device.


Project: Heavy Helicopters. Ray Ault.


Ray talked about he project that is currently on hold that is to compare the effectiveness of the Skycrane versus skimmer aircraft and develop a tool to show where each machine is more effective on extended attack fires. The report is on-hold pending the outcome of a consultants report looking at a similar study.


Comments: Leo Drapeau looked at the Martin Mars at Slave Lake this summer. Try and get the report.


TimberWest asked if we can look at the use of the Martin Mars aircraft in the study. Group decided that if they contribute $, we could do this.


Project: ATV caused fires in Alberta. Greg Baxter


In June 2002 SRD requested a study looking at ATV caused fires in the Protection Area.

FERIC pulled all fires with ATV’s listed in the fire report forms for the 1990-2002 period.


Results showed an increase in the number of fires caused by ATV’s. The primary cause of these fires is material in contact with the very hot exhaust system. Fine fuels heat up and ignite. Eight recommendations were put forward from the study. The Advantage Report should be printed in a couple weeks.


A proposal was put forward for the continuation of this project.




To physically demonstrate how ATV’s can cause wildfires and to use this information to work with manufacturers and the user community to reduce these numbers.




Using different models of ATV’s, attempt to replicate the fire ignition process. Fine fuels will be put in contact with the exhaust systems (which will be instrumented to provide surface temperatures) and observed (using video cameras and still photography) to potentially capture the ignition of the fine fuels on the exhaust system.


Comments – it is critical to work and include manufactures on this project before results have been found. It would be in their interest to back this project. A lot of ATVs are sold these days and they are becoming a strong lobby group.

Vote: High 6 Medium 1 Low 1. Score: 1.14


Proposed Project: assessing fire behavior change due to crown damage in Pine Stands


FERIC will inventory the extent of crown damage, calculate fuel loadings and enter data into Fire Behavior Prediction (FBP) model and calculate fire behavior changes.




In the spring of 2002 a heavy snowfall along the southern Alberta Rockies (Porcupine Hills and area North and South of Pincher Creek) resulted in severe crown damage to large areas of Pine forests. These broken tops will increase the fire hazard in these areas while they retain needles. (for up to 3 years)



  1. This project will inventory the extent of the damage by fuel loading to determine new fire risk.
  2. Changes to the Fire Behaviour Prediction (FBP) models may occur based on surface fuel loading changes in the Pine stands (C-3).


Comments: Con Dermott – too local a problem. Maybe do fuel loading but don’t get involved in the mapping.

Kelly O’Shea – a fuels project, but do not map.


Vote: High 0 Medium 1 Low 5. Score 2.83


Proposed Project: workshop on treatment of forest fuels to reduce hazard




WFORC will host a workshop on Fuel Treatments at the stand and landscape level bringing together researchers and practitioners to identify current and future research priorities based on identified knowledge gaps.


Comments: bring together interested parties to identify current knowledge gaps and set research priorities. I.e., Foothils Model Forest, Firesmart.


Alex Sinclair – include wildlife (coarse woody debris).


Judi B. is this operational? Sounds like CFS.

Kelly O’Shea – we could facilitate – administer the direction.

Alex – CFS/Protection/WFORC to work together.

Mark C. – communication will improve between fire and TM people.

Marty A. – a lot of groups involved – need general agreement.

May help drive ‘Firesmart’.

Con – should facilitate a conference.

Kelly – put together a Working Group to scope it out first. Group to be:


Ray Ault

Marty Alexnader

Kelly O’Shea

Dennis Driscoll – will find someone.


Should do something by next Spring.


Vote: High 7 Score 1.00.


Other Projects from floor – No.


Comments: for Al Beaver – Are there any Rates of fireline construction available. Marty provided some papers for this. No work on that from this group at this time.


Don Podlubny – asked if we could meet later in the fall. Marv answered saying FERIC requires it projects in place so budgets can be set in October.


Marty – asked where things are going with the group.

Alex – Saskatchewan, BC and the Yukon are here today and National Parks and the NWT unable to attend.


BC – may be able to  provide a secondment or in-king service.

Still have some 1st year funding left.

Aiming at other Provincial, supply and industry funding.


Position in Prince Albert coming soon on a four-year deal. Will do Tech Transfer and Demo Projects.

Can’t ask industry until Soft-wood is settled.

Also would like a Federal component.


Dennis Driscoll – need results as quickly as possible. This can also be used to show people what is happening here. Sometimes scientific validity not required – observations are ok. The front-end man requires faster results.


Alex – we share results quickly – papers may be slow. Important to document what we do.


Con – preliminary results are ok. Get non-technical stuff out quickly.


Quick Notes – as per Foothills Model Forest.


Warren – happy with results to date. Good to have West involved as well. Important to be seeing in field.




Tough to break into Quebec – need a French node.


Advantage Reports are able to circulate at this time (Cliff Henderson).


Next Meeting: Friday March 7 2003.


Meeting Adjounred at 2:10 pm.


Voting Results:


September 2002 ACFIRE Project Ranking Summary











Project Description





Workshop on Treatment of Forest Fuels





ATV Heat Source Analysis





Hazard Reduction for Linear Disturbance





Operational Trials of Video Detection





Quantifying Crown Damage to Pine Stands