Study: Fort McMurray At Low Risk of Major Wildfire Over Next Two Decades

The risk of a big wildfire happening just outside Fort McMurray is expected to be low for the next couple of decades.

That’s according to a recent study by researchers with Natural Resources Canada who note fire suppression activities may actually make it more likely fires start around communities in the Boreal Forest.

They suggest these efforts are allowing much older trees, which are more flammable, to survive.

Wildland Fire Research Scientist Marc Parisien tells Mix News Fort McMurray is in a unique situation as much of the forest around the community is younger as it continues to regrow from the Horse River wildfire.

“Fires can become really intense and they can burn through all kinds of forest, even quite young forests but it’s just not as likely. In general, I think it’d be safe to say Fort McMurray is at a much lower likelihood of re-burning for a couple of decades.”

The study suggests trees start to become more flammable around 30-years.

Though Fort McMurray isn’t in the same situation other communities currently find themselves, the community’s 2016 experience is a prime example.

Multiple fires pop up in the Fort McMurray Forest Area each year, however, most of them happen deeper in the forest which left many of the trees surrounding the community much older and more flammable.

“You look at the recent fires that occurred right around town, there’s not a whole lot prior to the 2016 fire,” added Parisien. “Maybe it’s the luck of the draw or maybe there is in effect from this.”

Meanwhile, Parisien says this, in no way, is an attack on fire suppression activities.

“If we didn’t have fire suppression we would be in big, big trouble. The purpose of this study was to just get us kind of thinking about what we can do differently over the long run to reduce the long-term risk of these wildfires.”

They’re also hoping communities in the Boreal Forest who haven’t had a recent fire know their risk is higher than those who’ve had.

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