Skip to main content

Mapping the distance between fire hazard and disaster for communities in Canadian forests.

Year of Publication
Publication Type

Communities interspersed throughout the Canadian wildland are threatened by fires that have become bigger and more frequent in some parts of the country in recent decades. Identifying the fireshed (source area) and pathways from which wildland fire may ignite and spread from the landscape to a community is crucial for risk-reduction strategy and planning. We used outputs from a fire simulation model, including fire polygons and rate of spread, to map firesheds, fire pathways and corridors and spread distances for 1980 communities in the forested areas of Canada. We found fireshed sizes are larger in the north, where the mean distances between ecumene and fireshed perimeters were greater than 10 km. The Rayleigh Z test indicated that simulated fires around a large proportion of communities show significant directional trends, and these trends are stronger in the Boreal Plains and Shields than in the Rocky Mountain area. The average distance from which fire, when spreading at the maximum simulated rate, could reach the community perimeter was approximately 5, 12 and 18 km in 1, 2 and 3 days, respectively. The average daily spread distances increased latitudinally, from south to north. Spread distances were the shortest in the Pacific Maritime, Atlantic Maritime and Boreal Plains Ecozones, implying lower rates of spread compared to the rest of the country. The fire corridors generated from random ignitions and from ignitions predicted from local fire history differ, indicating that factors other than fuel (e.g. fire weather, ignition pattern) play a significant role in determining the direction that fires burn into a community.

Xianli Wang, Tom Swystun, Colin B. McFayden, Sandy Erni, Jacqueline Oliver, Stephen W. Taylor, Mike D. Flannigan

Wang, X., Swystun, T., McFayden, C. B., Erni, S., Oliver, J., Taylor, S. W., & Flannigan, M. D. (2024). Mapping the distance between fire hazard and disaster for communities in Canadian forests. Global Change Biology, 30, e17221.


Publication Keywords