In an extreme wildfire event, the protection capabilities of any community depend on its wildfire preparedness planning, mitigation initiatives, and wildfire management practices. Utilizing geographic information systems (GIS) in wildfire mitigation can significantly increase the effectiveness of the strategies being used in wildfire preparedness and response. The City of Thompson (population 13,678) is located 760 kilometers north of Winnipeg along the Burntwood River within Canada’s Boreal forest. This region has experienced many human and lightning caused wildfires. Data from Manitoba Conservation and Climate and the City of Thompson report over 230 wildfires in forest, timber, brush, or grass within an eight-kilometer radius of the community between 2007 and 2017. In addition, in May 2003, the City of Thompson experienced a near catastrophic event when a fire was started by a train five kilometers east of the city and burned approximately 3,200 hectares of boreal spruce. Fortunately, winds pushed the fire north, diverting it from the city.
Faced by the ever-present danger of forest fires, the City of Thompson, Manitoba, undertook an innovative program to increase the effectiveness of its firefighting protocols by utilizing geographic information systems (GIS). Situated on the banks of the Burntwood River deep in boreal forests of Manitoba, Thompson has faced numerous near-misses from wildfires. Between 2007 and 2017, there were over 230 recorded fires within an 8-kilomter radius of the city. Given the severity of the threat, the City of Thompson has long been proactive in protecting itself from the dangers of forest fires. In recent years, however, the City has made great strides in integrating the most up-to-date mapping technologies in order to be better plan the distribution of their fire fighting and prevention resources. These tools are used as part of a greater multi-step planning and prevention process to improve resilience and are integrated into both the Wildfire Preparedness Plan and the Wildfire Mitigation Strategy. In the case of the former, the GIS tools help plan for the efficient allocation of resources, such as sprinklers, so that they are properly placed in order to increase response time and effectiveness. In the case of the latter, the GIS tool is used to help map out potential areas of high-risk for ignition, allowing for officials to prioritize mitigation efforts.