Canada to experience extreme fire season in 2012: ICLR

Posted on Apr 19, 2012

Low precipitation levels coupled with above-average temperatures mean that Canada could experience a dramatic fire season in 2012, it was revealed at an Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) forum in Toronto on April 13.

“We may see a very extreme fire season this year—the most extreme I’ve seen,” said Kerry Anderson, Canadian Forest Service.

Anderson alluded to a number of red flags he came across when creating his 2012 seasonal forecast, including dry conditions in fall 2011, an unusually warm winter, combined with Environment Canada’s forecast indicating that temperatures this year will be above average and precipitation will be below average.

The methodology he uses calculates spring conditions based on fall and winter precipitation levels and average weather temperatures, incorporates Environment Canada’s seasonal predictions, and finally determines a fire severity rating.

He predicted in April, Manitoba and western Ontario might see well-above average conditions. In May, there could be above-average conditions across Canada, with the exception of British Columbia and Northwest Territories, which would be normal. In June there would also be above average conditions. Finally in July there would be above average conditions in western Canada.

“I can’t provide 100% confidence in these forecasts, but obviously we’re being very prudent in being prepared,” he said.

Anderson also explained why last year’s Slave Lake wildfires became such a catastrophic event.

“Conditions leading up to the event weren’t exceptional, but a combination of high winds and low humidity led to the explosive situation.”

About one-quarter of one billion dollars is spent fighting fires each year, according to Anderson. People cause two-thirds of forest fires, whether accidentally or through arson.

Although insurance payouts are typically low for most fires compared to payouts for flooding and ice storms, he predicted, “We may see an increase as more people move out to rural areas.”