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Creating fires to combat fires

The Story

There's a smoky atmosphere deep in a basement at the University of New Brunswick. This old boiler room houses the lab for the university's Fire Science Centre where Dr. Ross Wine studies forest fire behaviour. Smoke gets in CBC science reporter Bob McDonald's eyes as he observes Dr. Wine create ideal fire conditions with wood shavings, soil and a wind tunnel. Wine's goal is to learn how to control fires so the forest can recover. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: Oct. 6, 1983
Guest(s): Dr. Ross Wine
Host: Peter Gzowski
Reporter: Bob McDonald
Duration: 11:28
Photo: Photo of Montana forest fire by John McColgan.

Did You know?

• The Fire Science Centre was established at the University of New Brunswick in 1967. The centre is used by students in engineering, chemistry, and biology, as well as forestry.
• There are three elements necessary to keep every fire active: heat, fuel and air. This is often called the "fire triangle." Firefighters act by eliminating one of the three.

• Forest fire researchers use computer models to study the interplay of flames, wind, fuel and other variables, such as land slope. Two meteorology students in Canada and Australia published a joint paper based on this research in 1996.
• The pair learned that weak winds and a hotter-than-usual fire can result in unstable conditions caused by the fire's forcing its own circulations. This can lead to a sudden blow-up — the kind that killed 14 firefighters in Colorado in 1994.

• The computer model also demonstrated that the air near a fire is cooler than previously thought. While a fire can burn at 800 Celsius, the air near it is only 60 to 100 Celsius. This is because the updraft created by the fire is constantly pulling in cooler air.

• A little-known type of forest fire is the underground fire, which burns when soil conditions are extremely dry. Rather than creating flames above ground, an underground fire smoulders through the soil, occasionally creating wispy smoke and, in winter, melting snow on the surface. These fires can burn for years and even decades.



Fighting Forest Fires more