November 15, 2013

Fighting Fire with Fire in Kootenay National Park

November seems a funny time to talk about fire, but Kootenay National Park recently released an amazing time lapse video of the Numa Creek forest fire. This fire, located about 30 km from Lake Louise, was started on July 25 by lightning.

Numa Creek Fire, photo by Pam Doyle, for the Calgary Herald
Under certain conditions, Parks Canada has the option of letting fires burn, but they decided to fight this blaze.  It threatened park facilities and the Kootenay Parkway, and maybe memories of the big 2003 Kootenay fires were still fresh in everybody's minds.  The fire, however, was in a difficult to access area with steep slopes, and firefighting was difficult, so when the flames picked up after a few days, the park's firefighters tried a different tack: fighting fire with fire.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but if you ignite unburned areas near the main fire, you can use prevailing winds, and even the convective currents generated by the flames themselves, to steer the fire in the direction you want.

Watch on Youtube to see how it all played out!