Kiera Macauley | ALES Graduate Seminar

Date(s) - 24/04/2020
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

A graduate exam seminar is a presentation of the student’s final research project for their degree.
This is an ALES MSc Final Exam Seminar by Kiera Macauley. This seminar is open to the general public to attend.

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Thesis Topic: Modelling Fire Cessation in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

MSc with Dr. Jen Beverly

Seminar Abstract:

In many regions of the world, fires are the primary environmental disturbance producing a mosaic of burned and unburned patches varying at temporal and spatial scales and providing a variety of ecosystem services. Fire perimeters mark the separation between the burned and unburned matrix of a fire. In prior studies in the United States, Australia, and Alberta, variations in the fire environment, fuel, weather, topography, and anthropogenic factors, affected fire perimeter formation. One of the critical challenges in interpreting and comparing regional variations in the fire cessation process is that each study employs a different distance of analysis and analysis technique.

In this study, I examined fire cessation in the western Canadian Rocky Mountain region, where no fire extinguishment studies have been undertaken despite human values at risk facing increased fire hazards. This study investigates how fire environment factors influence fire cessation on the 2017 Verdant Creek Fire in Kootenay National Park. The Verdant Creek Fire is ideally suited to this research as it burned under a variety of environmental conditions, with a varying application of suppression techniques. This work evaluated the performance of 16 distances of analysis for comparing exterior unburned areas with interior burned areas to identify how static variables influence fire cessation. Two spatial and temporal scales assessed the influence of weather on fire boundary formation. The potential influence of fire suppression on fire cessation was also examined. Data were extracted using GIS and analyzed with statistical modelling using matched case-control conditional logistic regression. Predictive fire boundary models were compared to determine the effectiveness of different distances of analysis and predictor variables.

Results indicated that fire boundary formation was strongly influenced by fuel composition, arrangement, and to a limited extent, topography. Weather influenced fire boundary formation, but mainly in areas where suppression occurred. Suppression was successful in periods of diminished weather conditions, and areas near waterways. The influence of vegetation was largely consistent regardless of the implementation of suppression tactics. While results from the weather model have applications in operational fire management, occurring over a limited period (1–14 days), the stable fire environment model has applications in strategic planning as it uses variables that are relatively consistent over extended periods (1–5 years). Results from the best distance of analysis were used to develop a Spread Potential Index (SPI). The SPI was used to map the probability of fire spread. The SPI has potential uses in strategic fire management activities as a tool for rapid visual assessment on the influence of temporally stable fire environmental factors on fire cessation.