Forest fires in Canada


Forest fires always have been a concern in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC). They occur when vegetation, dry conditions, and other factors combine, resulting in uncontrolled flames that spread across large areas.

In 2023, forest fires in Canada during the first half of the year have affected an area of 48,000 km², compared to the area of 21,000 km² burned during an average year. Climate change is assumed to have played a significant role, creating hotter and drier conditions that increase the risk of fire ignition and spread. Lightning strikes and human activities, such as campfires and negligence, have also been contributing factors.

The impacts of forest fires are far-reaching. They pose a threat to wildlife habitats, degrade air quality, and damage watersheds. Forest fires can also affect local communities, disrupt transportation, and impact the economy, particularly the timber industry.

To combat forest fires, the provincial government and firefighting agencies have implemented specific strategies. These include advanced technologies for early detection, rapid response teams, controlled burns, and community education on fire prevention. The applied technologies include the use of satellite data, providing valuable information on fire detection, monitoring fire behavior, and assessing the extent of fire-affected areas. This satellite data plays a crucial role in early detection, enabling rapid response teams to mobilize quickly and allocate resources where they are most needed.


  • Satellite Map:
    • Look at the satellite image maps and click on the layer selector in the upper right. Deselect the layer group “Detail” and “True color” by unticking the respective boxes.
    • Add the true colour satellite image from 2023-05-06. Which land cover classes can you identify?
    • Add the true colour satellite images from 2023-05-16, 2023-05-18, and 2023-06-07 one by one and describe the differences. The images have been acquired within a few days only, showing the dynamics of the process.
    • Can you identify the exact locations of the fires? What about the dense smoke and the changing wind directions?
    • Move on to the “False colour” infrared images and compare them with the true colour images. Which differences can you identify? What about the smoke and the fire locations?
    • How can forest fires influence the wildlife in this region?
    • How do they affect the people living there?
  • EO Browser:
    • Open the EO Browser.
    • Find the most recent Sentinel-2 dataset covering the area displayed in the satellite map. Is it easy to find (more or less) cloud-free images? Why/why not?
    • Select a true colour visualisation.
    • Can you identify additional, recent changes in the area (check e.g. for a recovery of the vegetation)?
    • Select the false colour infrared representation. Can you identify the land-use of the most intensely vegetated areas (represented by bright red colours)?

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