Logging machine
02 Jun 2018

The north prepares for an extreme wild fire season - bans daytime forestry and starts logging work at midnight for fire prevention

Fire Prevention
Forest Fires
Communication Group

Smoldering flareups of wildfire in a forest.

Both Scandinavia and Western Canada has had a record dry and very hot month of May. If the heat wave keeps up all summer, this year could turn out to be worse than the record breaking wildfire season of 2014, and authorities are starting to take extreme measures.

By Bjorn Ulfsson, CTIF Press & Communications Group

The weather in the Northern part of Europe is currently much hotter than many areas in Central Europe. The forests and vegetation is not able to retain humidity throughout unexpected dry periods in the same way as more southern regions - therefor northern forests are extra vulnerable during droughts.

Fire risk is at the moment very high in Swedish and Norwegian forests after the recent heat wave. In the Swedish county of Götaland, forest owners have therefore decided that felling may only take place at night in extra vulnerable areas, reports Radio P4 Jönköping.

"At night it's a bit humid, a little cooler and at the same time less windy," says Magnus Nykvist, Area Manager at Södra skogsägarna, to P4 Jönköping.

The night shifts are proposed to last from midnight to five o'clock in the morning and will start next week.

The fire hazard occurs when the forest harvesters hit against rocks and stones and sparks occur. The major forest fires in Västmanland 2014 are suspected to have started in this way.


 

A Swedish cottage that managed to escape the Västmanland forest fire of 2014. Photo: Wikipedia
A Swedish cottage that escaped the 2014 Västmanland forest fires, Photo: Wikipedia

 

No planting allowed in many areas

The dry weather has caused Swedish weather service SMHI to issue fire risk throughout the country, except for parts of Norrbotten County in the very northern part of the country. Work on preparing the land for planting is also affected by the fire risk, and has been postponed or canceled in many parts of the country.

The western province of British Columbia in Canada, with the port city of Vancouver, has also had a record dry month of May. The last few years has seen weeks of wild fires in the western provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia that have been impossible to extinguish without the natural help from rain - which luckily came to firefighters´aid later in September.

Unlike Scandinavia, summers are expected to be hot and dry all the way through the season in Western Canada, and if this year´s July and August turn to be as hot as 2017, the province of British Columbia can expect mass evacuations from the interior regions on a much larger scale than last year.

 

Danger rating for BC during the wildfire season of 2017. Photo: Wikipedia
Danger rating for BC during the wildfire season of 2017. Photo: Wikipedia

The 2017 wild fire season affected air quality for millions of people in US and Canada

In 2017, late July and especially August, air quality was very bad and visibility was low due to smoke in large areas of the province, both from fires in the interior and later in the season, around Seattle in the state of Washington, just south of the US border.

It was worse in the interior but also in the port region of Vancouver, it was at times difficult to breath and enjoy outdoor life for a few weeks.

Last year, the air quality in interior areas like Kamloops and Nelson -  during peak times - were measured at 30 times the toxicity of the health limits for when the public have to wear filter masks outside in Beijing, China.

 

According to the Weather Network, this wildfire season is expected to be severe and has already started -  the largest fire this year has so far been burning over 22,000 hectares,which is quite the large fire for May.

What's more unusual is some entire forest fire seasons have seen smaller areas burned than this one particular fire : 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2013 all saw smaller burned areas during the who year than our current forest fire season - and the wildfire season this year has just begun.

However, a gentle reminder – nearly 60% of all forest fires are caused by lightning, but that still  leaves over 40% of the forest fires caused by humans. 

 

The Ashcroft Reserve was one of the areas severely affected by the 2017 wildfire season in BC. Photo: Wikipedia
The Ashcroft Reserve was one of the areas severely affected by the 2017 wildfire season in BC. Photo: Wikipedia

 

Just like in Sweden, 2014 was a record year for wild fires in British Columbia, when 300 000 hectares burned in the province, and about 15 000 hectares were destroyed during the Västmanland Wild Fire in Sweden.

Authorities now fear the 2018 wild fire season could rival the record from four years ago.

Canadian authorities have recently changed their emergency plans to reflect the expectation of the wild fire threat growing with each season. But unlike Sweden, Canada has decades of experience with devastating wildfires that can destroy entire communities and already the country has large volunteer and part time professional resources ready to mobilize to watch for and to fight wildfires as they occur.

 

Scandinavia rests on "luck" and traditionally wetter summers

Scandinavia, on the other hand, has never had much structural damage occur from wildfires and has always been lucky so far with natural help from rain before any large scale human tragedies have occurred.

However, if hot temperatures prevail this summer in Scandinavia, it could be difficult to mobilize enough resources quickly enough for an adequate response - should wildfires reach unusual sizes... which would still be likely on a smaller scale than that of a normal Canadian wildfire season.

 

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