“To a forest fire, a house is just another tree”
— Jamie Coutts, Fire Chief, Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service
New technologies and innovative ways to think about fire and its behaviour are making a real difference in the way firefighters work in Canadian forests. Here are a few of those new fire fighting technologies, some of which are still being tested:
• ‘Safeguard’ is a continuous water curtain technology system that uses 120 water sprinkler cannons — some of which can pump out up to 1,250 gallons of water per minute — to create a more than 180-metre-wide water curtain between the wildfire and a town. Fort St. James is testing this system.
• One proven technology is the use of infrared scanners and computer modelling. Once the scans show where the ground fires are, map co-ordinates can be relayed to firefighters on the ground to pinpoint the exact location of underground fires using GPS.
• There are technologies that would permit firefighters to fly at night, like night vision goggles for helicopter pilots, and different types of fire-suppressing foams.
• There are sprinkler trailers with 150 sprinklers and pumps and hoses to actually set up a sprinkler system on houses.
• A fire simulator called ‘Phoenix’ allows experts to factor in wind, terrain and humidity and then, communicate real time information to decision makers and the public smartphones, computers, or smartwatches.
• To move long distances through the bush, ground crews ride in a tank-like, all terrain carrier that easily stores all the gearfire fighters need to tackle any situation.
• Firefighters now carry a wildfire field guide/app that has charts, formulas and equations to give firefighters a sense of what the fire they are fighting might do next.