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Indicator: Forest fires

In 2019 there were 4,000 forest fires in Canada that burned almost 1.8 million hectares (ha) of forest, an amount 30% lower than the 25-year average. Nearly all the large forest fires in 2019 occurred in the boreal forest regions of Yukon, northern Alberta, and northwestern Ontario; regions that often see large fires.

  • Northern Alberta saw 4 times the 10-year average burned area in May and June, which led to the evacuations of the communities of Wabasca and High Level.
  • A very dry winter and spring, followed by record lightning strikes in July, resulted in double the 10-year average area burned in Yukon. Numerous evacuations, highway closures and widespread smoke lasted unusually late into mid-September.
  • The Pikangikum First Nation in Ontario was partially evacuated in June and completely evacuated in July as two separate wildfires burned nearby. Overall, Ontario saw extensive wildfires in the northwest burning an area twice the 10-year average.

Following two consecutive record-setting forest fire seasons in British Columbia in 2017 and 2018, the area burned in British Columbia in 2019 was below the long-term average. Each spring and summer typically brings a unique combination of rain, lightning and wind. Record-breaking fire seasons followed by quieter ones are part of the inherent variability of fire weather in Canada.

Forest area burned and number of forest fires in Canada, 2009 to 2019

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Graph summary

Between 2009 and 2019, the annual area burned was highly variable, with no clear trend. The year with the highest area burned was 2014, with about 4.5 million hectares (ha). The year with the smallest area burned was 2009, with about 800,000 ha. In 2019, about 1.8 million ha burned – considered a moderate forest fire year.

Between 2009 and 2019, the number of forest fires each year was highly variable, with no clear trend. There is no relationship between the number of forest fires and the total area burned. In 2019, there were about 4,000 forest fires, the smallest annual number of fires since 2009. The highest number of wildland fires occurred in 2012, with about 8,000 fires.

Graph data
Table showing the area burned, in hectares, and the number of forest fires for each year from 2009 to 2019.
Year Number of fires Area burned
2009 7,210 775,025
2010 7,291 3,052,473
2011 4,743 2,428,798
2012 7,956 2,003,270
2013 6,264 4,210,137
2014 5,158 4,563,327
2015 7,140 3,861,647
2016 5,203 1,311,636
2017 5,652 3,419,856
2018 7,114 2,278,082
2019 3,921 1,842,612

What reporting frameworks does this indicator support?

  • Montréal Process: 3.b
Sources and information

 

Table of contents — The State of Canada's Forests Report

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