The Northwest Territories mark the farthest northern latitudes I have ever visited. And many answers were to be found there, as I return to the land of normal daylight hours with a saturated brain. The reason for my expedition was to join fire science and atmospheric researchers at a special location known as the Canadian Boreal Community FireSmart Site (a.k.a CBC) to conduct a series of experiments aimed at furthering knowledge of fire behavior and areas for application. The CBC represents one of only two sites where live research can be conducted outside of a laboratory.
If you’re a firefighter, then you may unwittingly benefit from this site and the experiments conducted here as they contribute to our understanding of survival/safety zone specifications, advancement of fire shelter and nomex technologies, and weather impacts on fire behavior. Granted these experiments are conducted in black spruce-jack pine fuel types, areas that U.S wildland firefighters will rarely find themselves in, but still extremely applicable.
If you’re a homeowner that enjoys living near the serenity of nature (or 1 in 4 Californians), then you will also appreciate CBC and it’s researchers. Ongoing research here also directly applies as information regarding resiliency of utility infrastructure (i.e power poles), efficiency of sprinklers for structure protection, and possible risk reduction through various vegetation management treatments. Again, this has to be taken with a grain of salt for anyone in the U.S as this research takes place in a wildly different landscape.
The boreal forest type is unlike any landscape I have ever seen before, even though it dominates massive tracts of land at high latitudes (Russia, North America, Scandinavia). Working from the ground up, the forest floor is essentially a carpet. Seriously, some parts of the forest were more comfortable than my college mattress -which shall not be missed. Several layers of duff and moss, combined with water logging in some areas, makes the ground extremely spongy. Here, look:
The other notable aspect about the boreal worth describing are the trees. Predominantly Black Spruce and Jack Pine, with some larch and aspen, the forest is dense. And also resilient to cold temperatures. And flammable. Look at this picture: It’s totally continuous.
No wonder once a fire starts in the boreal, it may burn until the snow falls. Here is a list of the various activities I did during the time at the site:
- aided in suppression of test fires and any spot fires they caused.
- compiled fuel data to assess fuel moisture, density, percentage of dead and down fuels, and measured tree heights.
- filled in as the site’s safety officer (yeah, hilarious)
- participated in a helicopter reconnaissance flight of an active wildfire incident
- assisted in aerial drone surveying
- observed intense fire behavior in the volatile black spruce-jack pine fuel type
- conducted interviews for my project
Here’s a list of the types of people that I was working with:
- A Fire Behavior Analyst, Prescribed Burn Coordinator, and Fire Protection Officers from the Government of Alberta and Yukon Territory
- Atmospheric researchers and fire behavior modelers from the Canadian Forest Service, Los Alamos Laboratories, and University of British Columbia
- Mechanical engineers developing fire technology products
- Wildfire researchers from FPInnovations
- Fire crews from various First Nations
Overall, this trip marks a promising start to the next year. Here are some more photos of what I got up to there.