Forest fire sizes may double in next 65 years

The size of forest fires we see in the Southern Interior could double in the next 65 years according to the province.

The size of forest fires we see in the Southern Interior could double in the next 65 years according to the province. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations released a report on climate change adaptation for wildlife management.

The report noted that severe future wildlife conditions as a result of climate change are predicted for this region based on an temperature increase of four degrees celsius by 2080. That includes:

• increased fire size, doubling from an average of 7,961 ha to 19,076 ha;

• increased fire severity by 40 per cent in spring, 95 per cent in summer and 30 per cent in fall;

• increased fire season length and fire frequency by 30 per cent;

• increase in crown fire ignition and severe fire behaviour by four to seven per cent; and a decrease in extent of fire free areas by 39 per cent.

The cost of suppression response is also rising, and right along with it, the cost of economic losses. These include losses to communities, natural resource values and midterm timber supply.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada is predicting an increase of severe wildfires by 50 per cent or more from now until 2050. At the same time costs of suppression will increase, effectiveness of response will decrease.

“The only cost effective way to address the situation is to utilize landscape fire management and wildland urban interface fuel reduction to proactively protect communities and natural resource values,” the report states.

The ministry said that climate change, new fuel types created by mountain pine beetle and increasing urban development will increase wildfire threats to communities and natural resource values in a significant manner.