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C.-B  : Inaccurate data harms the fight against forest fires, according to a study

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A 2023 wildfire west of Kelowna, British Columbia

  • The Canadian Press (View profile)The Canadian Press

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Wildfire suppression and forest management decisions are potentially hampered by inaccurate government data that misrepresents forest fuel loads in the British Columbia Interior, according to a new study.

The British Columbia government says the provincial wildfire service is working with the study's lead author and others to fill the data gap, which involves mismatches between remote sensing mapping, forest fuel classifications and field observations.

These mismatches make it difficult for fire managers to determine the expected behavior of a fire before an event occurs, researchers say in the study published in the journal Fire Ecology last month.

These disparities could also result in the inability to identify at-risk areas that would benefit from work to mitigate fuel accumulation, the study says.

Understanding the mix of grasses, branches and dead trees fanning flames in the forest is crucial to managing risks, as these fuels are the only factor that people can modify in the short term to influence fire behavior, the paper explains.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Forest Service recognize that mapping forest fuels is notoriously difficult despite its importance in influencing and predict wildfire behavior.

The study reveals a poor match between field observations and government data, particularly the British Columbia Plant Resource Index and the National Fire Behavior Prediction System.

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