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Federal Actions Towards Building Wildland Fire Resilience in Canada

A sponsored post by The Canadian Forest Service

Wildland fires are a uniquely devastating type of natural disaster — one with which Canadians and others around the world are all too familiar. Available science tells us that climate change is driving more frequent and more intense wildland fires. Annual national costs for fighting wildland fire total over $1 billion, additional costs averaging around $500 million or higher during extreme seasons. The risk is especially serious for remote and Indigenous communities across Canada. These are all stark reminders that the question is no longer whether we act… but how.

Given these realities, Canada recognizes the need to transform how we manage fire and wildland fire risk. The Government of Canada (GoC) is collaborating closely with provinces and territories under the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers to implement the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy. Together, we are working to accelerate progress towards national wildland fire and forest resilience in Canada.

Greater emphasis on prevention and mitigation is needed. In 2022, Ministers hosted the Canadian Dialogue on Wildland Fire and Forest Resilience, which brought together close to 100 participants from diverse sectors to identify priorities, needs and opportunities related to wildland fire prevention and mitigation. Outcomes of the dialogue will inform the development of a Canadian Wildland Fire Prevention and Mitigation Strategy, to mobilize whole-of-society action on wildland fire resilience. This will allow Canadians to be aware, engaged, prepared and actively participate in wildland fire reduction and accept fire where appropriate.

Science, data and innovation will be key. This is why the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) developed a Blueprint for Wildland Fire Science in Canada report, which presents recommendations to transform fire management and strengthen Canadian resilience to wildland fire through research, data and innovation.

The CFS has been involved in fire research for decades, working with partners across the country to increase the knowledge base about wildland fires and to improve the ability of authorities to predict and manage the risks. We are currently developing a Canadian Wildland Fire Information Framework, which will seamlessly produce, manage and share information on wildland fire across Canadian jurisdictions. This will ensure that information and tools are available for evidence-based decisions around risk mitigation and emergency response.

The Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System and its two foundational components, the Fire Weather Index and the Fire Behaviour Prediction System have been adopted around the world as models for helping countries understand their risk levels, including recent requests coming from Costa Rica, Malaysia and Switzerland. We are currently modernizing this system to ensure communities and fire agencies have the most current information to allow for faster response to fire threats.

Canada supports global approaches to fire management and welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with international partners. The GoC, in partnership with industry, provincial and territorial governments, will develop the world’s first purpose-built operational satellite system for monitoring wildfires: WildFireSat. WildFireSat will provide unprecedented, daily, near real-time strategic intelligence on all active wildfires, at a scale and scope previously not possible, when agencies need to make critical decisions on strategic preparedness and priorities. WildFireSat is the only public satellite monitoring system ever created to respond directly to the needs of, and in conjunction with, front line fire managers in Canada.

Mitigation and adaptation go hand in hand. To prevent these fires and mitigate their impact, we need to bring together a diverse range of perspectives. This why the GoC will be launching Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy, which is intended to establish a shared vision for climate resilience in Canada, identify key priorities for increased collaboration, and establish a framework for measuring progress at the national level. Wildland fire is just one of Canada’s climate adaptation needs. The strategy will help inform where the GoC should best target its policies, programs and investments going forward to make Canada more resilient to climate-driven hazards.

We should not underestimate the power of sharing experiences and this conference sets a great example. This includes recognizing the tremendous value of Indigenous knowledge and cultural practice with fire. There is also growing recognition that we need effective international collaboration to develop solutions to better manage risks and increase resiliency. Canada has a long history of active involvement in international wildland fire management collaboration. We will build upon existing international partnerships and networks to benefit Canadians and the global fire community.

To reduce the impacts of wildland fire, we must move to a prevention and mitigation culture, with whole-of-society engagement, education, and collaborative actions. CFS continues to conduct world-class research to inform public policy and support breakthrough solutions, we are proud to be sharing our research with you at the Wildfire Canada Conference 2022.

Michael Norton,

Director General
Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, Government of Canada