Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations - BC Wildfire Service

Fighting Fire & Fire Behaviour FAQ

What is this year's fire season going to be like?

The severity of the fire season is largely dependent on a combination of number of factors including snow pack, wind, precipitation, type of vegetation and terrain, lightning strikes, forest floor moisture content and level of drought.

The Forest Fire Danger rating system provides updated information to the public about forest fire danger level (low, moderate, high, extreme) throughout the province based on the relationship between weather elements, fuel moisture and potential fire behaviour in various forest fuel types.

More information is found on the following pages:

How is fire danger rated throughout the province?

The answer is found on the following pages:

What do the "fire intensity rankings" mean?

The answer is found on the following page:

What does "under observation" mean?

For many years the B.C. Forest Service practised aggressive initial attack by attacking all wildfires to the point of excluding fire from many ecosystems. In certain cases, this may have lead to an unnatural build-up of forest vegetation (fuels and an increase in insect population spread). The B.C. Forest Service now recognizes the need to practice fire management, not fire exclusion.

Previously the B.C. Forest Service objective was to bring all wildfires under control by 10:00 a.m. the next day following discovery.

Today, our policy is to take appropriate action on all wildfires. Where there are identified values at risk, the B.C. Forest Service will maintain an aggressive initial attack. Where identified values may benefit from a wildfire, the B.C. Forest Service may select a more appropriate ecological action.

Control action will be:

  • implemented in a cost-effective manner consistent with the values at risk and land and resource management objectives
  • based on sound tactical plans

The B.C. Forest Service may delay, limit, suspend or withdraw control action if it is determined that the action is:

  • unsuccessful due to extraordinary fire behaviour
  • impractical due to size and location of the fire
  • not cost-effective in relation to the values being protected

the wildfire is:

  • a natural process in maintaining an ecosystem and bio-diversity
  • located in an area where it would be unsafe to put people
  • lower priority than other existing wildfires

What happens during the "mop-up stage?"

Mop-up occurs after a fire, or any part of a fire, is controlled. Mopping up makes a fire safe by extinguishing or removing burning and hazardous material.

Mopping up includes:

  • extinguishing all smouldering material along the fire's edge;
  • ensuring logs/debris cannot roll across the fire line;
  • making sure all burning fuel is burnt out or is spread or buried to stop sparks travelling;
  • clearing both sides of the fire line of snags, rotten logs, stumps, singed brush and low hanging limbs of trees; and
  • searching for underground burning roots near the line.

COLD-TRAILING is a method of determining whether or not a fire is still burning, involving careful inspection and feeling with the hands to detect any heat source.

INFRARED SCANNERS detect heat and hot-spots invisible to the naked eye. They can be hand-held or mounted on planes and helicopters. Scanners are effective in locating hot-spots and thus reduce mop-up time.


Once a fire is controlled and mopped up, the fire boss will declare the fire to be "on a patrol" basis.

The job of the fire patrol is to walk the control line to prevent escapes, discover and control spot fires and mop up whenever necessary.

A fire patrol person will also keep a sharp lookout for "sleepers" or hangover fires. A sleeper is a hidden fire, deep inside the duff layer or in a root tip. It remains dormant and undetected for a considerable time after it starts. Heat is transferred along the root or through the duff and it may take up to three weeks before an adjacent patch of fuel is brought up to ignition temperature.

Patrol and inspection may continue for days or weeks. Adequate patrol and inspection is necessary to ensure that a fire that is "under control" does not restart.

Does fire have any positive effects in the forest?

The answer is found on the following page:

How do you decide which fires to allocate resources to?

Fires are prioritized. Obviously fires that put people??s lives and homes at risk are always the first concern.

Wildfire threat analysis consists of four components: fire behaviour, fire occurrence, suppression capability and values at risk. All these components are considered when determining fire priorities.