Wildfire is a natural regenerative force within the boreal forest and native grassland. Lightning accounts for just under 50% of all fires while the remainder are caused by humans. Wildfire must be effectively managed to protect life and property.
The forest area burned between 1999 to 2007 is illustrated in Figure 1. In the last 15 years Saskatchewan has experienced, on average, 510 fires and burned 388,000 ha/year. Major wildfires were experienced in 2008, 2002, 1999, 1995 and 1936. Wildfire can result in loss of timber, wildlife, property and livelihood, at least in the short term. Smoke can directly impact on human health and lead to residents being evacuated.
As the climate gets warmer and drier the fire severity levels across the province are expected to increase (Figure 2). The frequency of fires is expected to increase by up to 50% by the end of the century.
The Saskatchewan Government is involved in a number of initiatives to reduce the risk of wildfire. FireSmart is a program that assists individuals, communities and businesses in reducing the risk of fire arising from their buildings and properties. For more information on the program see SaskAdapt.ca Success Story – Fire Suppression or the provincial Wildfire Management website. The province has also adopted a Wildfire Management Strategy (Figure 3). The strategy is meant to protect life and property, allow for ecological benefits of wildfire and reduce overall fire suppression cost. The objectives of the strategy and four zones of action are summarized in Figure 4.
Figure 5 illustrates the application of the wildfire management strategy zones to Saskatchewan.
- Continue with the FireSmart program that assists individuals, communities and businesses in reducing the risk of fire. For more information on the program see SaskAdapt.ca Success Story – Fire Suppression
- Improve predictions and warning capability.
- Ensure insurance and disaster support is in place.
- Continue fire suppression efforts with implementation of the Wildfire Management Strategy.
- Atlas of Canada (2007): Forest Fires. Natural Resources Canada http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/environment/naturalhazards/forest_fires [accessed February 6, 2011]
- Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre Inc (2010): National Wildland Fire Situation Report http://www.ciffc.ca/firewire/current.php [accessed February 7, 2011]
- Government of Canada (n.d.): Wildfires in Canada http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/knw/ris/wldf-eng.aspx [accessed February 7, 2011]
- Government of Canada (n.d.): Is Your Family Prepared? Severe Storms in Canada http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/knw/ris/str-eng.aspx#b1 [accessed February 4, 2011]
- Government of Saskatchewan (n.d.): Wilfire Management. http://www.environment.gov.sk.ca/fire [accessed February 7, 2011]
- Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment (2008): Report on Saskatchewan’s Provincial Forest. http://www.environment.gov.sk.ca/adx/aspx/adxGetMedia.aspx?DocID=aee50778-4130-42d8-8a2e-377734026b0b&MediaID=1550&Filename=Report+on+Saskatchewan+Forests.pd [accessed January 19, 2011]
- Saskatchewan Environment (2011): Wildfire Education and Prevention – FireSmart http://www.environment.gov.sk.ca/Default.aspx?DN=345cabaa-551e-437c-8122-292df6d38683 [accessed January 19, 2011]
- Public Safety Canada (2010): Canadian Disaster Database http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/em/cdd/srch-eng.aspx [accessed February 8, 2011]