Why is this indicator important?
Forest fires present a challenge for forest management because they have the potential to be at once harmful and beneficial. Fires can threaten communities directly or with smoke, resulting in public safety concerns and costly economic losses. They can also destroy vast amounts of timber resources, although some timber from burned areas can be salvaged for use in forest products. On the other hand, forest fires are a natural part of the forest ecosystem and are important in many parts of Canada for maintaining the health and diversity of the forest.
Information on trends in the fire situation across the country is important for assessing both the health of Canada’s forests and the effects of the changing climate.
What has changed and why?
With warmer, drier climatic conditions, the severity of fire weather conditions in Canada appears to have increased, and the fire season has become longer, with more fires burning in April and October than in previous years.
In 2015, a total of 7,068 forest fires burned about 3.9 million hectares (ha):
- While the number of fires was slightly above its 10-year average, the area burned was about 50% above the 10-year average.
- Saskatchewan had three times its 10-year average in area burned, at more than 1.76 million ha.
- Alberta had more than twice its 10-year average, with just below 500,000 ha burned.
- In natural parks across the country, the area burned was about four times the 10-year average. These increases were somewhat offset by Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, all of which had less area burned than their 10-year averages.
- In Quebec, the area burned was less than 2% of its 10-year average.
In addition, forest fires resulted in 125 community evacuations in 2015, affecting approximately 15,000 people.
What is the outlook?
When and where significant fire activity occurs varies greatly from year to year. Analyses of fire trends are beginning to show an increase in both the annual variability of fire seasons and the length of the fire season. These emerging trends may in turn result in changes to the cost of fighting fires and more impacts on people, such as loss of houses and evacuations.
|Number of fires||Area burned
- Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. 2015. Canada Report 2015. (June 23, 2016)
- National Forestry Database. Forest fires – National tables, Table 3.1, Forest fire statistics by province/territory/agency, 1990–2015. (May 16, 2016)
- Forest fires in Canada (infographic) – National parks fire data are not included in the provincial and territorial fire data.
- Date Modified: