Kevin GranvilleAn analysis led by math professor Kevin Granville finds that measures to limit the damage of wildfires caused by forestry operations are working.

Legislation helping to mitigate wildfires in Ontario: study

A protocol in place to prevent and mitigate industrial forestry wildfires ignited on Crown forest land in Ontario is successfully reducing their growth, says researcher Kevin Granville, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics.

Dr. Granville and his research team studied the Modifying Industrial Operations Protocol, which is enforced by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The protocol aims to manage and limit the risk associated with fires ignited because of industrial forestry operations while maintaining flexibility in terms of daily restrictions.

“Essentially you want to prevent ignitions, and if they do happen, you want to prevent them from doing much damage,” says Granville.

The protocol was enacted across Ontario in 2008, when it replaced the Woods Modifications Guidelines, which had been in effect since 1989. Granville’s team assessed and compared conditions under the Modifying Industrial Operations Protocol, the Woods Modifications Guidelines, and pre-Woods.

“This type of retrospective analysis is important for monitoring the performance of Ontario’s prevention and mitigation efforts and providing insight for the future, especially in a changing environment,” he says.

“Our findings provide evidence of the protocol succeeding at its goal of mitigating the negative impact of ignited industrial forestry fires when compared against previous regulations.”

A focus of his research was how effective the protocol is regarding two of its objectives:

  • preventing as many ignitions as possible, and
  • ensuring that foresters are trained and equipped with fire submission equipment to limit as much damage as possible should a fire be ignited.

“A goal of mitigation is to limit the size of fires,” says Granville. “In our study, we detected an improvement in fire sizes — observing larger fires less often.”

He stresses that most fires aren’t caused by forestry, so it is key to acknowledge the importance of the industry and making sure its operations are conducted safely.

“You don’t want to cause unwanted ignitions, especially during a period of extreme fire weather like earlier this summer. We need to have rules for that and the question is: are the rules effective?” says Granville. “What we are seeing with the Modifying Industrial Operations Protocol is that it is meeting its goals.”

—Sara Elliott