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Case study of an excursion from top-piles





Greg Baxter (Lead)

Other Collaborator(s):
Advisory Member(s):

RWF-002 initially escaped containment on Wednesday, January 3 2002 due to an increase in windspeeds caused by a chinook event. At least two piles escaped containment and joined together as RWF-002. The first fire remained within the cutblock in 2-3 year old cured fuels and was fought until Sunday, January 6th when another, stronger unpredictable event (chinook winds) occurred near Nordegg,. At this time another pile flared and raced off into a stand of trees. The fire grew from 10 hectares in size to a final size of 20 hectares before it was contained in an area of blowdown along a ridge top. The top-piles in this block were ignited three weeks earlier, during a stretch of seasonal weather and when the ground had 100% snow cover of up to 25 cm in some places. Many piles were ignited at this time to take advantage of the good burning conditions. Just north of this area, between 6000 and 8000 piles were burned during the same time period (with only a few very minor excursions). A warm period followed New Years, and this combined with strong winds evaporated the surface snow and exposed the fuels which were capable of carrying fire. The cutblock containing the piles was directly to the east of a ridge that acts to deflect or bounce the chinook wind and is situated in a location that frequently catches the descending wave at full force. It is in these areas that extreme care must be taken when pile burning at any time during the winter.

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