Quirks and Quarks·Quirks & Quarks

Fort McMurray and the future of fire

Wildfires have always been part of the boreal forest, but climate change is altering conditions, and humans are more at risk than ever

Disastrous wildfires may be more common and more intense in future

A wall of fire rages outside of Fort McMurray, Alta. Tuesday May 3, 2016. (Terry Reith/CBC)
Fire has long been a natural part of the Canadian boreal forest ecosystem, but when an out-of-control raging fire threatens to wipe out a Canadian city, it opens up the question of just how "natural" this disaster is. 

Dr. Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta, thinks this might be just a taste of things to come. Fire is a normal part of many ecosystems but the fire regime is changing in Canada, as warmer, dryer conditions, due to global warming, increase the chances of more frequent and intense wildfires. We're also putting ourselves more at risk from fire by moving into naturally fire-prone environments in ever larger numbers. 

Both of these factors will oblige us to learn to live and co-exist with fire, and find ways to reduce our risk and exposure when it comes.

Related Links

CBC News Fort McMurray fire coverage
- Dr. Flannigan previously on Quirks & Quarks