Process Safety and Environmental Protection, Vol.96, 1-13, 2015
Fire in the woods or fire in the boiler: Implementing rural district heating to reduce wildfire risks in the forest-urban interface
Many rural communities in British Columbia (western Canada) are at risk from wildfire. This risk will increase over time as a result of climate change because of higher average temperatures, longer growing seasons, and more intense droughts. On the other hand, these communities are also faced with rising fuel costs and a growing demand for heat as suburban population increases. The fact these communities are surrounded by forests presents an opportunity to combine community wildfire risk abatement with bioenergy development. Additional co-benefits include: (1) reduced community energy expenditures; (2) the creation of local jobs; (3) climate change mitigation; and (4) increased community energy security. Here, we present results from three pilot rural communities (Burns Lake, Invermere, and Sicamous, all of them in British Columbia) designed to evaluate the feasibility of wildfire risk abatement in conjunction with bioenergy production. Maps were created showing each community's forest-urban interface area with quantified estimates of its sustainable woody biomass resource potential under different management scenarios while monitoring ecosystem and soil health. The results and experience gained through this work has been synthesized in a calculator tool to help other communities make their own screening-level assessments. This calculator is a freely available on-line tool: FIRST Heat. (C) 2015 The Institution of Chemical Engineers. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.