If the goal were to cut the total amount of smoke in the air in half, how many millions of dollars per year are we talking about here? I envision hiring hundreds of people to find fires before they spread, maybe with some high-tech way of sensing heat from satellites...please just pick the most cost effective solution.

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    $\begingroup$ Satellites are already routinely used in detection and monitoring of forest fires. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Jun 16, 2023 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ owners of private planes are often asked to keep an eye out for potential fires and larger fires are visible on satelite images like this site: earth.nullschool.net/#current/bio/surface/level/annot=fires/… $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2023 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ one big cost could be worse fires later. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 20, 2023 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ I think your question is best asked on a forestry forum. $\endgroup$ Jun 23, 2023 at 13:53

2 Answers 2


What makes you thing money can solve such a problem?

Canada, like most other countries that are prone to wildfires does not have enough fire fighting personnel to attend to all such fires. Presently, Canada has signed agreements to accept fire fighters from the USA,Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Canada has 566 of its own fire fighters and so far has brought in 443 from the US, Australia and New Zealand. A current total of 1009. During the 2019/20 catastrophic fires, Australia received assistance from: Canada, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea. The Philippines, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, USA. It also utilized 6500 of its own defense force personnel.

Then there's the issue of fire fighting equipment and obtaining what is needed: trucks; water; back burning equipment; water bombers; equipment for cutting line breaks: graders, bulldozers. Getting enough water to a fire could problematic. Access to remote areas, particularly in mountainous or heavy undulating terrain will also be difficult. Are there roads to such areas and are they in good condition. The rotation and rest of fire fighters is critically important.

Weather conditions are critical: air temperature (particularly wet bulb temperature), wind speeds and directions, moisture content or dryness of the air, the possibility of the formation of fire tornadoes or pyrocumulus cloud.

Weather conditions during the preceding years also important, particularly if it encourages the growth of new forest vegetation, particularly undergrowth. If conditions are too favorable too much dry undergrowth can develop. The only way to remove it is by controlled burning during wetter, cooler periods. Knowing if such conditions exist requires monitoring.

One of the unpleasant realities of fires on such a scale as they currently are in Canada is humans cannot extinguish the conflagration. Humans can attempt to prevent fires from escalating. Fires on such a scale are extinguished by either wet weather or they just burn out by running out of fuel.

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    $\begingroup$ You point out the challenges well, but I never said or thought that it was easy to fight forest fires. I still think some amount of money could cut the smoke in half, a billion dollars a year for example could hire another 10,000 firefighters. Or, that money might better be spent on some drone technology. Just hoping to hear about the cheapest available options because a lot of people in the neighborhood would be willing to contribute for better air quality. $\endgroup$
    – bobuhito
    Jun 17, 2023 at 11:32

I think there may be a misconception about how fire is controlled in the forested wildland setting. There are plenty of fire-detect tools out there, and we know where they are. The problem is that when wildfires occur due to lightning, they can often be far from any access routes. And, you can get dozens of fire starts overnight during a thunderstorm. This makes it difficult to access and control the fires. In reality, the real work needed to limit smoke during wildfire season (and wildfires themselves) is done in the off-season. Prescribed burning and other forest management techniques are used when fire danger is low, which greatly helps to limit wildfire growth when fuels dry-up in the summer. So, it is a long-term monetary commitment that is needed to manage all forested lands if we want to limit wildfires and smoke. I don't know what that dollar amount is, but in general it is difficult to get government to fund something that doesn't have a direct/immediate monetary benefit.

Without road access, it can be incredibly difficult to get the manpower and resources to the fire location. Most of wildfire fire-fighting is done through containment, not "putting the fire out", because it is not physically possible to fly enough airplanes to drop water and put out a fire that spans hundreds or thousands of acres. The hard work of containing a fire is done on the ground. You have to cut fuel breaks and do back burns so that the fire stays within a controlled perimeter and doesn't grow. You also need experienced staff. This is life and death work with very difficult physical demands, so you can't just "hire more people" one day when fires get out of hand. When it gets bad across the region, fire fighters from other countries will be brought in to help.

In general, decisions are made during wildfire season to focus resources that "extinguish" fires on threatened developed land and residences; because they are accessible and government wants to minimize property loss and loss of life. The reality is that when it is wildfire season, we are waiting for the next rain event to do the work of extinguishing the fire. In the meantime there is focused extinguishing efforts on protecting human life and property and containing fires that are accessible. Please support federal land managers and fire fighters.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting points. It sounds to me like just hiring 10 intelligent people to brainstorm/simulate solutions here could have a big impact within a few years.. $\endgroup$
    – bobuhito
    Jun 19, 2023 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not plugged in to the Canadian government, so their funding issues may be different than in the USA. But in general I think it's safe to say that governments underfund land management and then knee-jerk react to fire suppression for the hot/dry season. $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Jun 19, 2023 at 13:57

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