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Inhabitants of forested areas can reduce risks linked to fires | Forest fires 2023

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The University of Waterloo's Intact Center for Climate Adaptation suggests actions people in forested areas can take to protect themselves from fires. (Archive photo)

The Canadian Press

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Canadian homeowners and communities can reduce wildfire risks to buildings if they start taking steps such as creating buffer zones and using fire-resistant construction materials.

The study released Sunday by the University of Waterloo Intact Center for Climate Adaptation (CIAC) notes that the 2023 wildfire season has shattered previous records set in 1995. representing approximately a quarter of Manitoba's land mass, went up in smoke.

The report, entitled Before the Flames, says Canadians living in forest and prairie regions should follow proven measures to reduce the risk of their homes burning by up to 75%.

The document includes two infographics, with images showing actions owners and communities can take.

Wildfires 2023

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Forest fires 2023

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The report calls on homeowners to store wood away from the house, remove shrubs and other flammable materials near the foundation, and cut down trees within 10 meters of the building.

More complex steps include installing a fire-rated roof made of asphalt, fiber cement or metal, which can limit the risk of embers igniting a roof .

The study also recommends certain measures that communities should favor, such as removing tree branches near power lines, integrating buffer zones of 30 meters in community design and ensure adequate water supply for firefighting.

CIAC research estimates that in areas at high risk of wildfires, communities could save $34 for every dollar invested in fire-resistant building choices, and $14 for every dollar invested in retrofitting fire-resistant buildings. buildings and facilities to make them more fire resistant.

The study reveals that 60% of Canadian communities are vulnerable to wildfires due to their proximity to forests and grasslands, including the creation of buffer zones. It indicates that the risk of wildfires in these communities is increasing due to expanding urban development, lack of nationally accepted building standards to guard against wildfires, accumulation of flammable vegetation near structures and of increased fuels around communities as a result of 100 years of firefighting.

At the same time, the paper argues that climate change plays a larger role, as it increases the annual number of days on which wildfires can occur.

According to historical records, current wildfire seasons start about a week earlier and end a week later than usual. 70 years ago, notes the study.

Scientists predict that by the end of the century, the fire season will still be longer, increasing by an average of 30 days per year, but will vary across the country, with western Canada facing a 50% increase in hot, dry days, and eastern Canada, a increase of 200 to 300%.

A quote from From the Intact Center for Climate Adaptation study at the University of Waterloo

Blair Feltmate, director of the CIAC, said the report aims to help Canadians achieve the goals set out in the federal government's National Adaptation Strategy, which calls for communities in areas to high risk to develop community wildfire prevention and mitigation plans by 2030, with up to 15% implemented by 2028.

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