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This morning, we spoke with NFPA’s Canadian Regional Director, Shayne Mintz, based in Ontario, Canada to gain some understanding of the wildfire and its impact.  He shared that, “With the near drought-like conditions in British Columbia and Alberta [Canada], over the past two years and the unusually high spring temperatures – coupled with low humidity, this is definitely unusual and it sets the stage for a potentially bad fire season.”  He added that, “temperatures in  Alberta are some of the warmest in Canada right now because of weather patterns that have highs in the 80s(f).


alta-wildfire-evacuation.jpgShayne also reflected on the fire, explaining that, “it took a lot of people by surprise that it got into Fort McMurray, becoming an urban conflagration.”


To better understand this area of Canada, Shayne relayed that it is in the northern arboreal forests and is a big economic area for timber, oil, and gas extraction.  Fort McMurry is the home of Canada’s large oil sands production facilities and was not a big community until the oil boom of the past decade.


I asked Shayne about the current evacuations and he shared that, “the community is served by one highway in and out with one bridge on Highway 63 into Fort McMurray.  Since a southern evacuation has presented challenges, many residents are fleeing north to camp areas and mining camps.  These commercial mining camps are airlifting or otherwise relocating staff to facilitate evacuees.”  He added that local press has already marked this as the largest evacuation in Alberta history and that the wildfire has eclipsed the home loss of the 2011 Slave Lake, Alberta, wildfire.


Shayne’s shared that his message to both Canadian and NFPA audiences elsewhere, “is that communities can help defend against wildfires by applying the principles of FireSmart, and for more information, visit to learn more on how to help reduce the wildfire risk they may face in their communities”


Photo Credit: Terry Reith/CBC (5 May 2016, Wildfires: The science of how they spread and how they're stopped - Technology & Science - CBC News

Dr Simeoni SFPE-NEC meeting presenting study about Wildland fire behavior.jpgOn Monday, May 2nd the New England chapter of the (SPFE) Society of Fire Protection Engineers held its final chapter meeting in Norwood, Massachusetts.  The evening meeting featured an interesting presentation by an internationally recognized leader in fire science, Dr. Albert Simeoni a senior manager with Exponent Inc.  He has also worked and volunteered with the Fire Department of North Corsica, France for 10 years, starting his career as a volunteer firefighter and ending his career there as a chief. Dr. Simeoni presented an integrated research project  that examined how wildland fires spread using new modeling methods that he developed.


His studies were examining wildland fire in the field because of the trend of growing wildfires.  He was trying to understand better about how to develop methodologies for studying wildland fires especially because of the growing concern about massive wildfires.  His fire modeling studies were completed this spring on plots of forested land in the pine barrens of New Jersey.  His 3-year goal is to look at the effectiveness of fuel treatments, but the long-term goal is to understand wildland fire behavior.  He used instruments such as a sonic anemometer to measure wind speed, flux calorimeters to measure variabilities in temperatures, airborne sensors on WASP planes to examine heat transfer, and LIDAR to look at canopy densities and height as well as samples of the forest vegetation (fuel).

This research is conducted in collaboration with the US Forest Service, the University of Edinburgh, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Tomsk State University. It is funded by two JFSP projects, one on fuel treatment effectiveness and the other one on firebrand production with the local support of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

The most interesting research component that was presented was some information about how embers are generated after the wildfire passed and the way that embers moved because of fluctuating winds during a wildfire event.  It reminded me of the importance that homeowners look at the home as well as their landscape when they are embracing Firewise principles.  He shared how many homes burn hours after the fire front passes due in large part to smoldering embers that have more oxygen to burn more intensely after the fire front passes.  The downloadable Firewise toolkit shares many simple changes that you can make to your home to keep it safer in the event of a wildfire.

On Tuesday, June 14, a team from the University of Maryland and NFPA staff will discuss principles for improved design and protection of communities exposed to the threat of wildland fires at NFPA's annual Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.
NFPA's Dan Gorham, a Project Manager with the NFPA Research Foundation, holds an MS in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland, where he studied with Dr. Michael Gollner and others on such issues as wildland fire spread. Gorham is also an incident qualified wildland firefighter. Of this session, he said, "The intended outcome is for participants to learn about design considerations for new construction communities in the wildland-urban interface. Some of the consideration in community scale design go beyond factors of an individual structure, things like water supply and community layout."
Dr. Gollner and University of Maryland graduate students Raquel Hakes and Sara Caton will discuss fire protection engineering principles that can be useful as applied to wildfire safety at a community scale. Through research such as the Fire Protection Research Foundation report, Pathways for Building Fire Spread at the Wildland Urban Interface, Gollner and colleagues have found that there are a variety of codes and standards governing the design of WUI communities, but no design "guide" to lead engineers, community planners and AHJs in how to implement those requirements. Included will be an overview of the WUI problem, wildland fire behavior, pathways to fire spread, existing codes and standards, and water supply design, as well as simulation tools and online references. Attendees will be presented with a cohesive strategy for designing protection measures and a review of the many tools available in the field.
Register now and don't miss this intriguing session on new concepts for longstanding wildfire safety issues!
WHEN: Tue, Jun 14, 2016 - 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
WHERE: Lagoon J, Mandalay Bay Convention Center

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