Minutes of the

Wildland Fire Operations Research Group

Spring Advisory Committee Meeting

March 18, 2004



Warren Kehr (Weldwood)

Con Dermott (Vanderwell Contractors)

Keng Chung (Syncrude)

Jim Letersky (Risley)

Ted Szabo (SRD)

Tina O’Day (CP Rail)         

Vince Eggleston (ALPAC)

Mark Heathcott (Parks Canada)

Craig Nyrose (ATCO)          

Don Podlubny (FMF)

Robin Woodward (Sask Forestry Center)

Jen Beverly (CFS)

Terry Kennedy (Firetrol)

Wally Born (SRD)

Monique Wilkinson (Aquila)

Alex Sinclair (FERIC)

Marv Clark (FERIC)

Ray Ault (FERIC)

Dave Schroeder (FERIC)

Greg Baxter (FERIC)

Kris Johnson (FERIC- SFC)

Rory Thompson (FERIC)

Rex Hsieh (FERIC)

Stephanie Weber (student)

Bernd Musselmann (student)



Brent Schleppe (SRD)

Rick Lanoville (GNWT)

Mark Coolen (Millar Western)

Marty Alexander (FERIC)

Doug Haliburton (CN)

Dan Boyd (YTG)

Daryl Jessop (Sask Env)

0830 – Marv Clark covers the Building business – fire exits, washrooms, lunch, etc.


Announces changes to advisory committee – Dennis Driscoll thanked for his contribution and is replaced by Wally Born. Marty Alexander now on secondment with FERIC and is replaced by Jen Beverly.


Marv Clark – other business – Approval of Fall Minutes. Move to Accept – Con Dermott, Warren Kehr seconded.


Introductions around table.


Kris Johnson (Sask Forestry Centre) Update


Completed Projects – Provincial Fire Detection Review. Identified knowledge gaps; recognized the increase in Public reporting of fires.  Automated smoke detection demonstration.


Landscape Laboratory – draft of business plan. Any questions can be referred to Robin Woodward.


Community Risk Assessment Process – identified communities with WUI issues. Data gaps – need to validate. Working on prescriptions. Forest Development Fund ($30,000 proposal) will be used for remote sensing and ground verification. Benefits will be put forward.


Firefighter Review – A re-organization within Saskatchewan Protection Division is under way. Province wants to be pro-active. Bill C-45 important (even if due care is taken – criminal charges can result, can still be liable). Look at Type I, II and III crews.

Outcomes – change in crews needed? How many? Where will they be? How will they be used? Identified succession issues to build on.


Q – (Don Podlubny) – Fire Certification – are you looking at other provinces?

A - Yes, looking at Alberta SRD.



Review of Completed Projects (Ray Ault)


PPS – 2 reviews completed – report out soon.

IR – look at AWIS methodology – this report is at printing.

Tanks – 1st Draft to Marv, some changes – then to External Review.

ATV – completed and printed – copies available and on website.

Top piles – East Central Report – completed and on web (some copies available here).

Automated Smoke Detection – external review underway.

S-64 – data collection complete, Draft completed.


Any Questions – no.


Lost Creek Proposal:  This is an over view of the proposed project for 2004-07. A three year project. Hope to learn in the near future the outcome of the proposal.


Fuel Modification – two case studies of fuel modification. Thinning and burn. Use islands of unburnt stands, or stands adjacent to the fire. Burn under extreme conditions.


Q (Alex Sinclair) – how are you going to measure. (A) – observe and measure fire behaviour when it moves from crown to ground.


Community Protection – cost/benefits of fuel modification treatments (Rory Thompson). Will do a summary of cost comparison of methods. Also looking at maintenance of treatment and blowdown. (Questions that came out of the fuel modification workshop.)


Structure Protection – foam, sprinklers and gelled products will be tested for effectiveness in structure protection.

Linear Disturbance – (Greg Baxter) will compare fire behaviour in mowed/mulched plots to untreated plots along a transmission corridor.


FERIC financial contribution – the four activities at Lost Crk. involve projects already approved by the WFORG Advisory Committee. FERIC budgeted resources will be put towards these projects. Total Lost Crk. budget is $230,000. $51,000 will be in-kind FERIC support as above.  An additional $160,000 is requested from the Research Fund.


Q – (Con Dermott) – Who is on the advisory committee? (A) – local people from the community and local industry make up the Advisory Group. This includes Town Reps, Pincher Creek M.D., Shell Canada. Dennis Quintilio is chairing the group. FERIC made a presentation to the committee on our research program and they told FERIC what they would like to see included in the study – thus the four topics identified.


Don Podlubny – explained the set-up of the Advisory Group.


Linear Disturbance Project (Greg Baxter). Presented how the project came about – many large fires in the last 5 years have involved linear disturbances which acted to increase problematic fire behaviour. Research plans for the year include:


·        Grazing – will go with Craig Nyrose (ATCO) to look at and measure fuel loading at areas grazed by sheep last summer. Will compare to un-grazed areas.

·        Fort McMurray – will set up a number of plots in an area the SRD burns every spring. Will compare fire behaviour in mowed versus unmowed plots in grass fuels.

·        Lost Creek – mentioned above.

·        Foothills Firesmart Committee – will document and follow up on linear disturbance work completed as part of project.

·        Fuel load data collection – will utilise summer students to collect fuel load samples from a range of linear disturbances. Data can be used in fire behaviour models to assist in predicting fire behaviour along linear disturbances during fires.


Q (Alex Sinclair) – will you involve the companies in this? (A) – an e-mail has been sent out to involved parties asking for study sites.


Stand Density (Dave Schroeder). Test community protection prescriptions. Ignition probability for thinned stands. Includes both commercial and community thinning.


Field Trials – burn from unthinned into thinned stands. Test structures will be located at the hot end of the burn plots. FireSmart  standards – less trees – less fuels – hopefully less intensity. Need to burn during extreme conditions to see results.


Q (Marv Clark) – is this design just for Blairmore? (A) – no – this is a conceptual design to be used in all locations.


Fairholme Burn – unfortunately could not be there when the fire spread through plots – but did collect some ‘visual’ data.


Ignition Probability – in treated and untreated stands.


2004 Work Plan – Will include plot set-ups at Lost Creek (proposed) and NWT, and

ignition testing at Calling Lake. Other activities include micro-climate studies within stands; windthrow assessment, and a literature study.


Cooperators – SRD, NWT, Lost Creek and FMF.


Q (Wally Born) – gel from Missoula requires final approval before it can come into Canada. Canada can approve something on its own.


Terry Kennedy – clarified that Canadian provinces do not need US certification for product, but have in some cases chosen to use US test results and standards.


Cost of Fuel Treatments (Rory Thompson). Costs will be collected at Lost Creek, Foothills FireSmart and in the Rocky Mountain House region. This includes cost of treatment, maintenance and windthrow loss.


Methods: collect cost information; literature search; identify gaps in data and develop a plot layout design. Plot size – 10 hectares as this is the average cutblock size. 12 plots with 3 and 6 m inter-crown spacing.


Foothills Wildfire Threat Mitigation Project – collect costing data and maintenance data.

Rocky Mtn. House – 3 areas have fuel reduction projects

Jasper –leaving the Douglas-fir in thinned areas.


Rory then showed the Jasper news clip.


Smoke Detection (Dave Schroeder). Reviewed last years field studies on the applicability of cameras used for fire detection. Tests showed the cameras can work.


Forest Watch (South Africa) – software. Allows detection, control and location identification. Three tower mounted video cameras. Computer used to move camera. GIS can pinpoint fire location (many more features. Can load in permanent smokes or permits. It is operator friendly. Cameras are commercially available. Using 2 100-m communication towers. Two cameras are on one tower (top is used). This will give 360o view and triangulation. Camera cost is minor. Can have satellite images on web.


Objectives – operational settings; costs; visual database of past smokes.


Cooperators – FERIC, SRD, ATCO, Communication companies.


Debris Management (Greg Baxter)


East-central Report completed.

West-central in editing stage. North will be sent for editing as soon as west-central is completed.


New Project – Cost and Benefits of Various Debris Disposal Treatments.


The cost and benefits of three debris management treatments will be compared against the costs and benefits of roadside processing and piling. These are:

·        Roadside processing and burn

·        At the stump processing

·        Roadside processing and scattering over block.


Will look at costs of treatments; regeneration success probability; wildlife habitat quality and fire risk. Company participation will be used for costing data; wildlife biologists for habitat quality, we will sample regeneration success and look at fire risk.


Q (Alex Sinclair) – should also look at taking hog fuel and/or chips out of the block and placing chipping debris back in the block – this would add two more treatment columns to the study matrix.


Structure Protection –



·        Itemised list for homeowner protection

·        Humdity dome – does it exist?

·        Best hose lay for sprinklers

·        Assessment process

·        Guidelines for set-up and maintenance

·        Application guide for control lines


Ft. Providence (NWT) – four structures to burn (or save!)

Lost Creek – proposed foam, sprinklers, gelled products. Limits of effectiveness.


Q (Alex Sinclair) – why not retardent on houses (A) – liability if house doesn’t burn. SRD policy- not to dump on houses.


Also investigate the use of sprinklers as control lines. Burn off from sprinkler lines using Saskatchewan’s large diameter hose system.


NWT – Fuel Modification study. (Marty Alexander – presented by Dave Schroeder)


There is a need for fuel modification around structures to assist in protection. But these treatments are not tested. One case-study of a treated vs untreated plot showed no difference in fire behavior – opened stand was drier and had greater wind movement through plot.


Have plans to use 18 plots and three treatments. Three to be burned at same time. One plot is control – one thinned to three metre spacing and one to have surface fuels and bark removed.


Fuel Mix and Aerial Torch (Rory Thompson)


FireTrol – one gelling agent. Surefire – powdered gelling agent to thicken fuels.


Concerns – torch doesn’t work at critical times. Jet B fuel no longer available, Jet A doesn’t work. Temperature important in mixing and changes through day.


Future Actions – meet with FireTrol to gather data. Temperature dependant. Mixture problems. Talk to companies about additives.


Jet A – heavy fuel; flashpoint 6-38C.

Jet B – light fuel; flashpoint –20C (easily ignited)


Warren Kehr – new airborne propane torch coming out (Highland Helicopters)

Keng Chung – summer/winter fuel differneces.


Wally Born – Jet B – had contract with Esso. Now going with Jet A.

Marv Clark – do we need trials – What is outcome? A Table?


Keng Chung - Suncor blends according to spec – many blends. Will make one for you.

After two years can’t use Jet B and flashpoint not right for Jet B. Esso and Shell fuels ok.


Terry Kennedy (FireTrol) – may have to change for conditions (i.e., north/south)

1.      Standards in fuels –collect data.

2.      Know torches

3.      Go to the oil companies and ask for their best mix (need to take some variables out).


Shooting through nozzle makes it difficult – the ‘physics of flow’ is required knowledge.


Scale – not a big market – Lost Creek, maybe 50 barrels of fuel used.


Wally Born – how do we get Jet A to work? Modify nozzles or mixtures.


Torch originally designed for what was available – maybe have to redesign.

Licensing may be an issue.


Rory will contact industry.


Coke Ignition Trials (Ray Ault) under simulated wildfire conditions.


·        Will coke ignite and continue to smoulder?

·        Identify differences in coke between Syncrude and Suncor.


Diagram of experiment shown.  Wood will overlay on coke to simulate high fire intensity.


Schedule – start in April, try in NWT, burn in July and draft report in August, final report in October.


Marty Alexander and Mark Ackerman (U of A) will help in project.


Q (Ted Szabo) – are you testing air emissions? Ken Chung – No, they know what the emissions are.


Accumumulated Fatigue (Ray Ault)

This was a ‘Top 3’ project. The literature review is complete. Have identified a group of human performance specialists to cooperate on the project, but the project requires CIFFC funding support.


This summer the plans for a Field Trial will involve going to a large fire and observing the workers, following a Safety Officer and an EMT for a day each. This will help develop the proposal for CIFFC. Looking for a measure of fatigue that can be collected by a Safety Officer on a fire.


Q – (Alex Sinclair) – why didn’t CIFFC understand? Not a clear message or did they not read before the meeting? Find out why they did not understand project – get more pre-information out.


Wally Born – what is the relationship between Alberta’s Type I-III firefighters and fitness.


Ray Ault – fitness is the Number 1 determinant – it is the Base-line. This project is currently specific to Alberta as they are the only ones paying for it. If others want  to take part they must contribute funding which is why we are going to CIFFC.


Mechanization on the Fireline (discussion topic)


Will it improve efficiency?


Some examples – Jumbo Tank (actual Leopard tank carrying water). Excavator and nozzle for mop-up of piles. (photo supplied by Duke in Cranbrook)


Check on Simpson Construction (Lost Creek Fire) as they may have had something similar.


Alex Sinclair – saw a video of tank at San Dimas – check with them.


Jim Letersky – mechanization of logging. Two years ago combined a mulcher with a buncher. Prototype – a common carrier with attachments.


Ground based spraying – 6-wheel drive, independent moving tires. 5 foot tires 44” wide. Good in cutblocks. Same thing in Australia.


Pilot Project – what are the critical elements in mechanized firefighting?


April 14/15 in Missoula – a show with firefighting machinery.


Marv Clark – usually cost and safety factors lead to mechanization. What is it in fire?


Hand-line construction in steep terrain.

Dangerous tree falling – in fires in BC need an inspection before FF’s can go in. Slows fire operations. High standards for fellers in BC (10 day course and 120 hours on the line experience required).


Crew moves on fires (special vehicles)


Why not use feller-bunchers on fires? Access and speed of arrival.


A lot of prime-movers could do things.


Con Dermott – less people on fireline these days; a need to increase productivity.


Ground based water delivery.


A logging truck with a central tire inflation system delivered water on the Cranbrook fire and surprised a lot of people with its mobility.



·        Accessibility

·        Availability (knowledge to use and equipment)

·        Timing

·        Environmental repercussions


Alex Sinclair – need to know what is out there (pre-suppression planning)


Mark Heathcott – hard to hold a line (easy to make) – high volume water delivery is required. Loose with crew transport.


Jen Beverly – how small an IA crew can you go with using mechanization? Staff is already on the payroll.


Resource Problem – short all across Canada – how do we supplement this limited resource?


Alex Sinclair – is this a workshop idea? (Rory volunteered to organize).


Con Dermott – we need this now.


Marv Clark – evaluate the effectiveness of a mulcher/feller-buncher combination used on a large fire to prepare fire guards and access for water delivery.


No one opposed the suggestion of a Workshop.


Meeting ended at 12:02 pm.





Copyright © 2004, Wildland Fire Operations Research Group (WFORG), FERIC. For comments: web administrator