British Columbia

Clearing the smoke: B.C. wildfire terminology made easy

Do you know what an interface fire is? How about a hotspot? Or a direct attack?

B.C. fire information officer offers an easy-to-navigate guide to fire-speak

Clearing the smoke: Fire information officer explains the sometimes tricky to navigate wildfire lingo. (BC Wildfire Service/Reuters)

As wildfires continue to blaze across the province, daily updates are needed to keep the public informed of problem areas, and potentially damaging developments

Despite that, anyone who has tried to keep track of the fires has likely run into official terminology that has left them scratching their heads.

B.C. Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek spoke to CBC Radio to clear the air on some of the lesser known fire terminology references.

Wildfire of note: I think when most people hear that we have a fire of note, they assume right off the bat something dire is going on. In a lot of situations a wildfire of note is labeled as such because it's visible or because it's something we anticipate the public wants information on.

Making it a fire of note it provides a higher profile and makes information on it easier to track.

Interface fire: Essentially, the area where development and the wilderness meet is referred to as the interface.  It's basically those areas where you have houses meeting trees.

It doesn't necessarily mean there's a structure burning, it means there's a fire in that broad area.

Containment: I think this speaks to the scale of the wildfire. A wildfire so large in most cases that our immediate priority is to get it contained.

The word-for-word definition of contained is to say that we've put a perimeter around the fire where we've removed fuel.

When we talk about 25 per cent or 50 per cent containment it means we've put that perimeter around that much of the fire.

Direct attack: When you've got an aggressively burning fire, it's not safe to actually have someone at the front of that fire fighting it. When we can go in and do that and put people right onto the fire line, that's called direct attack.

Hotspots: This refers to fire going through an area and leaving the ground blackened. You still have smoldering areas on the ground. It's an area for whatever reason, the fire is still percolating beneath the ground.

Ranking fires: On a scale of 1 - 6, escalating in terms of intensity.

A Rank 1 fire has a very little flame with not much growth.

A Rank 6 fire is that prototypical, incredibly dramatic, aggressive fire that causes trees to candle and can spread through the treetops. In most cases there's not much that can be done to suppress a fire that's ranked six.

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Through the haze: A breakdown of wildfire terminology.