A helicopter bucketing a forest fire in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley. (Thinkstock)

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) has announced it will set up its Canadian Wildfire Strategic Network at the University of Alberta, where Canadian scientists specializing in wildfires plan to train students, develop tools and “improve the state of knowledge related to wildfire management.”

U of A wildfire expert Mike Flannigan, the new network’s principal investigator, said its plan over the next five years is to focus on three themes: understanding fire in a changing world, managing ecosystems and delivering innovative fire management solutions.

Granted, 2019 was a relatively slow wildfire year, but Flannigan said wildfires in 2020 have already threatened communities in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Flannigan said earlier this spring that the COVID-19 pandemic could possibly lead to a decrease in spring wildfires — particularly in May, Alberta’s riskiest fire month — as fewer people were expected to be at work or play in forested areas. More than 80 per cent of Alberta’s wildfires in May are started by humans, he said.

(Thinkstock photo)

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