State of Environment Report: Land






 

Forests

Fire ignition points

 

Significance

 

This indicator shows the spatial distribution of forest fire ignition points and whether the ignition was the result of natural (lightning) or anthropogenic (person) causes.


Spatially displaying fire-cause ignition points can illustrate distribution patterns that can be used to identify areas that are likely to experience more frequent wildland events.


The area burned by anthropogenic fires is small in relation to the area burned by lightning fire ignitions. This is because anthropogenic fires generally occur near settlements and roads where they are quickly detected and easily extinguished. The outline of the Alaska Highway is easily traceable on a map of points of ignition for forest fires. Tracking this indicator is an important communication tool used to demonstrate public responsibility in fire prevention.

With a changing climate and an expanding human footprint, it is reasonable to expect that the frequency of ignitions will increase. If ignitions occur during periods of elevated fire danger, due to temperature or precipitation considerations, the severity and extent of wildland fires across the Yukon could change.

 

Lightening caused fire in Dawson District. Sonny Parker.

 

 

What is happening?

Figure 1: Yukon wildland fire history: Anthropogenic caused fires 1946-2016
Figure 2: Title: Yukon wildland fire history: lightning caused fires 1946-2016

 

  • There are dramatic variations in the number and location of wildland fire ignitions that occur annually. Generally speaking, anthropogenic fires occur along transportation corridors or near communities (Figure 1).
  • Lightning ignited wildland fires are biased towards forested areas and show a wider distribution across Yukon (Figure 2).
  • In 2016, 45 per cent of the fires that started were anthropogenic, resulting from escaped campfires, open burning, equipment use, and so on.
  • The other 55 per cent of the fires ignited in 2016 had lightning origins.

 

Taking action

 

Yukon's Wildland Fire Management Branch investigates the cause of every reported fire in Yukon. The point of ignition in latitude and longitude and the cause of the fire are recorded by staff and form a fire record for Yukon. This information helps guide wildland fire prevention activities, continuous improvement of the fire detection program and complements our understanding of Yukon’s fire regimes.

 

Watson Lake 2015. Aerial ignition to remove volatile forest fuels.

 

 

Data quality

 

  • Yukon's Wildland Fire Management Branch collects data on reported fires during the fire season, which extends from April 1 to September 30 each year. The data is compiled daily during the fire season and finalized by the following January.
  • Wildland fire ignitions occurring in Yukon are reported publically each day via the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre website
  • Minor gaps can occur as not all wildland fires are detected and reported.
  • The fire environment (e.g., type of forest), seasonality (at what point during the fire season does the fire occur) and fuel moisture codes (e.g. long-term drought) can and will impact the fire size and severity.

Further information

 

Whitehorse district fire, 2009.