Fire Bans and Weather

Chelsea Uggenti

Masters Student, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science

Supervisor: Dr. Doug Woolford and Dr Charmaine Dean

Research Interests:
Modelling the nature and behaviour of other natural hazards and diseases.

Awards:
NSERC USRA

Conference Presentations:
Exploring the impact of restricted fire zones on the risk of people-caused forest fires in Ontario, 2015
Exploratory data analysis on fire weather variables to observe bias and variability, 2015

Award:
Canadian Mathematical Society - SARGC Undergraduate Poster Competition Award Recipient, 2015


Working with Statistical and Actuarial Sciences Associate Professor Doug Woolford on modeling the causation of natural forest fires was an unexpected opportunity for Chelsea Uggenti. An undergraduate student, pursuing a degree in pure mathematics, Chelsea undertook summer research with Woolford and found herself exploring two aspects of the hazard of wildfires. First, she looked at the variability and bias of different weather variables that are utilized in various models of forest fire hazard. Chelsea took data from several weather stations in Ontario, as provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and examined the long term and short term forecast focusing on variables such as temperature, rain, or relative humidity. She then determined which variables were most accurately predicted by the forecast and which ones were more difficult to predict. Each of the variables, when accurately predicted, actually feeds in to a second model, called the Fire Hazard Index, to determine the level of imminent risk of forest fire. 

The second element of her research was determining the effectiveness of fire bans on preventing people-caused fire hazards, for which Chelsea implemented methods more frequently used in predictive modeling for disease control. Considering two different types of fire bans; residential and recreational, Chelsea used statistical tools to determine whether any ban, impacting for example camp fires, garbage disposal fires or crop fires was effective in mitigating the risk to nearby forests.

Ultimately both these aspects provided important information to government to make better policy decisions in regards to natural fires so that the environment, nearby infrastructure and life could be more effectively preserved. 

As for Chelsea, she is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Statistics with Drs. Woolford and Dean and hopes to employ these recently acquired skills to understanding the nature and behaviour of other natural hazards and diseases.