Forecast for wildfire smoke July 14 & 15, 2021

1:48 p.m. MDT July 14, 2021

Smoke forecast for 8 p.m. MDT July 14, 2021
Smoke forecast for 8 p.m. MDT July 14, 2021. NOAA.

Above is NOAA’s forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke at 8 p.m. MDT July 14, 2021.

Below is the Canadian’s version of a forecast for the distribution of wildfire smoke 24 hours later, at 8 p.m. MDT July 15, 2021.

Smoke forecast for 8 p.m. MDT July 15, 2021
Smoke forecast for 8 p.m. MDT July 15, 2021. Canadian government.

The photo below taken Wednesday morning in Northeast North Dakota shows visibility being compromised by smoke, which may have originated in Canada.

Smoke in North Dakota, July 14, 2021
Smoke in North Dakota, July 14, 2021. Photo by Misty Kirbitz.

Helicopter pilot killed in crash while fighting wildfire in Alberta

There were no other personnel on board

The pilot of a helicopter that crashed while fighting a fire in Alberta, Canada was killed when the Bell 212 went down Monday evening. It occurred on a fire near the community of Evansburg. The body of the pilot, the only person on board, was recovered Monday.

The pilot’s family has been notified.

From CBC news:

Emergency crews were called to the scene around 6:30 p.m. after RCMP received a 911 call reporting the crash. Evansburg RCMP, EMS, firefighters and Alberta Wildfire responded to the site in a remote area west of Highway 22 and north of Highway 16 in Yellowhead County.

The location is not accessible by road and police were brought to the scene by aircraft.

Logan said the terrain of the remote crash site was “difficult” but witness accounts helped first responders narrow their search for the wreckage.

“It wasn’t an exhaustive search because many eyewitnesses saw the helicopter go down,” Fraser said.

RCMP are cooperating with Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigators who are taking charge of the investigation, Logan said.

Our sincere condolences go out to the pilot’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Matthew.

Wildfire northeast of Prince Albert, Sask. burns thousands of hectares, prompts evacuations

Cloverdale Fire

Updated 8:42 a.m. MDT May 19, 2021

Cloverdale Fire May 17, 2021
Cloverdale Fire May 17, 2021. Photo by Nicole Hansen.

Tuesday afternoon and into the evening the Cloverdale Fire a few kilometers northeast of Prince Albert, Sask. was active near Highway 55 where it burned across the highway north of the 780 road and spread into agricultural areas. The fields at that location and on the north side of the fire make it easier for firefighters to contain the blaze in those areas. (See the map below.)

Cloverdale Fire map
Map showing heat detected on the Cloverdale Fire by satellites, as late as 3:54 a.m. MDT, May 19, 2021.

The video below was aired Tuesday evening.

The weather forecast for Prince Albert on Wednesday is for increasing clouds with a west wind of 30 km/h gusting to 50, and the temperature steady near 9C.

5:09 p.m. MDT May 18, 2021

Map of the Cloverdale Fire
Map of the Cloverdale Fire, the morning of May 18, 2021.

A large wildfire just northeast of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan has burned thousands of hectares and prompted the evacuations of more than 35 homes. Tuesday morning Steve Roberts, vice-president of operations for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency said it had burned 3,694 hectares (9,128 acres). (See the map above.)

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said Tuesday morning that the fire had jumped across Highway 55.

Electrical power has been shut off for about 8,000 people.

Large wildfires in Manitoba prompt smoke advisories

Manitoba fires map
Map showing the locations of wildfires in Southern Manitoba at 5:12 a.m. CDT May 18, 2021. Based on heat detected by satellites.

Multiple wildfires in Southern Manitoba grew large Monday pushed by strong winds while the temperature was high and the relative humidity was low. The smoke being produced by the blazes prompted Environment Canada to issue multiple special air quality statements Monday evening.

“Localized areas of smoke are creating reduced visibilities and poor air quality down wind of fires,” the agency said in the statement.

Satellite photo of smoke from Manitoba wildfires
Satellite photo of smoke from Manitoba wildfires, May 17, 2021.

The areas under the air quality statement as of Monday evening include:

  •  Whiteshell – Lac du Bonnet – Pinawa
  •  Arborg – Hecla – Fisher River – Gypsumville – Ashern
  •  Bissett – Victoria Beach – Nopiming Provincial Park – Pine Falls
  •  Brandon – Neepawa – Carberry – Treherne
  •  Dauphin – Russell – Roblin – Winnipegosis
  •  Dugald – Beausejour – Grand Beach
  •  Grand Rapids – Waterhen
  •  Selkirk – Gimli – Stonewall – Woodlands
  •  Ste. Rose – McCreary – Alonsa – Gladstone

Four 10-person teams of firefighters are being brought in from Ontario to assist, while Quebec sent two air tankers and a bird dog aircraft.

Ontario firefighters en route Manitoba fire
Ontario firefighters en route to assist with wildfires in Manitoba May 15, 2021. Photo by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

The EA044 fire 23 Km (14 miles) west of Gypsumville seen on the map above is very close to another much larger fire. They may be all one fire separated by an area of light vegetation that cooled in between heat-detecting satellite overflights. If they are one, they cover an area of approximately 52,500 hectares (130,000 acres). About 28,300 hectares (70,000 acres) burned at that location Monday during the strong winds.

Below are forecasts produced by FireSmoke Canada for the distribution of wildfire smoke on Tuesday and Thursday. The circles with numbers indicate multiple fires at each location.

Wildfire south of Kelowna, BC likely started by sky lantern

Peachland, British Columbia sky lantern
Wildfire near a home in Peachland, British Columbia on March 16, 2021 likely started by a sky lantern. Photo by Kevin Tameling.

A flaming object that fell from the sky ignited a fire 10 to 15 feet from a home  in Peachland, British Columbia on March 16. Firefighters responded quickly and suppressed the blaze, but after it had burned part of a homeowner’s deck and singed the siding.

Initially some residents thought it was space debris or a meteorite, but video indicates it was most likely a sky lantern.

At seven seconds in the video below several bright objects separate from a single bright object. Most of the new objects disappear but the largest is seen falling to the ground over the next 29 seconds.

This is consistent with what happens when the paper hot air balloon above a a sky lantern is ignited by the flames underneath. Depending on the altitude parts of the paper can burn completely or partially before they hit the ground, and the candle or burning oil may continue to burn as it falls, then possibly igniting any receptive fuel on the ground.

These dangerous devices use burning material to loft a small paper or plastic hot air balloon into the air. The perpetrator has no control over where it lands. Usually the fire goes out before it hits the ground, but not always. Sometimes the envelope catches fire while in flight. Numerous fires have been started on the ground by sky lanterns. Even if they don’t ignite a fire, they leave litter on the ground. Metal parts have been picked up by hay balers causing serious problems when fed to livestock

Sky lanterns are illegal in at least 30 states.

On December 31, 2019, New Years Eve, a sky lantern caused a fire in a zoo in Western Germany that killed more than 30 animals, including apes, monkeys, bats, and birds, authorities said.

In March of 2019 a sky lantern landing on the roof was the most likely cause of a fire that resulted in about $40,000 in damage to a business in Burlington, Vermont.

In October, 2018 surveillance camera footage in Goyang, Korea showed a sky lantern starting a fire in grass that spread to and destroyed a tank holding 2.66 million liters of gasoline, enough to fill 250 tank trucks.

In September, 2018 a sky lantern was suspected of causing a power outage on a railroad in Hong Kong, causing four trains to be disrupted for 25 minutes until repairs were made.

Here are a few other examples of damage from sky lanterns: a warehouse in the Philippines, an Olympic venue in Rio, 15 people injured and 4 homes destroyed in India, 4 homes and a boat dock in Michigan, a four-plex structure in California, and six million British pounds worth of damage to a recycling facility in England.

Sky Lantern poster
Volunteer Wildfire Service, South Africa.

Fifty years of wildland fire science in Canada

Canada -- fire causes, humans and lightning
Stacked bar graph showing the number of new human- and lightning-caused fire occurrences (≥2 ha) for each day of the year from 1959 to 2018. Figure adapted from Coogan et al. 2020. (From “Fifty years of wildland fire science in Canada”)

A group of nine land managers and researchers in Canada have put together a compendium highlighting the country’s accomplishments in wildland fire science over the last 50 years. Information in the 296 pages plus more than 300 references covers five key developments and contributions:

  • The creation of the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System;
  • The relationships between wildland fire and weather, climate, and climate change;
  • Fire ecology;
  • Operational decision support; and,
  • Wildland fire management.

There is also a case study about the evolution of wildland fire management in Banff National Park.

Banff NP, wildfire vs Rx fires
Annual area burned by wildfire and prescribed fire in Banff National Park from 1910 to 2018. Note the long period of fire exclusion from the 1940s until the early 1980s. (From “Fifty years of wildland fire science in Canada”)

The paper discusses additional research needs, including:

  • Further evaluation of fire severity measurements and effects;
  • Efficacy of fuel management treatments; Climate change effects and mitigation;
  • Further refinement of models pertaining to fire risk analysis, fire behaviour, and fire weather; and,
  • Integration of forest management and ecological restoration with wildland fire risk reduction.
Canadian wildland fire research, by decade
Timeline of some key developments in Canadian wildland fire science by decade from the 1970s to the 2010s. FWI, Fire Weather Index System; FBP, Fire Behaviour Prediction System; NSERC, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. (From “Fifty years of wildland fire science in Canada”)

The paper is available at Canadian Science Publishing (html). A .pdf version is also online.

Authors of the referenced online document: Sean C.P. Coogan, Lori D. Daniels, Den Boychuk, Philip J. Burton, Mike D. Flannigan, Sylvie Gauthier, Victor Kafka, Jane S. Park, and B. Mike Wotton.