Canada’s 402 million hectares (ha) of forests and other wooded land constitute 10 percent of the world’s forests, help filter 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, and contain more than 140,000 species of plants, animals and micro-organisms. With 93 percent of forest land publicly-owned — the vast majority by the provincial and territorial governments — Canadians are stewards of one of the world’s greatest natural assets.
Canada’s $82-billion forest industry directly employs more than 375,000 people and contributes $33 billion to the country’s gross domestic product annually. More than 300 communities depend directly on the forest for their livelihoods. As a result, the provinces, territories and Parks Canada spend an average of half a billion dollars a year on forest fire management activities, making it the most expensive element of forest management in Canada.
Forest fires have been a dominant natural disturbance in Canada since the last Ice Age, particularly in the vast boreal forest that stretches from the Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador. Many tree species such as pine, spruce, birch and aspen have not only adapted to fire, but they have also relied on it for their continued existence.
Since 1980, an average of 8,600 wildfires have burned 2.5 million ha of forest each year, with 60 percent of these fires caused by people. In an extreme year, the area burned can exceed 7.5 million ha, which is equivalent to the size of Ireland. And although the number of fire ignitions has decreased in recent years, the reported area burned has increased over the past three decades, and this is projected to continue under a changing climate.
Although Canada is a world leader in forest fire suppression, some fires cannot be prevented or controlled. The vast majority of wildland fires in this country — about 97 percent — are contained at less than 200 ha; the remaining 3 percent that burn under the most extreme conditions account for 95 to 98 percent of the total area burned. Fires in excess of 100,000 ha are not uncommon in Canada, and fires exceeding one million ha have been recorded. Most of these occur in remote modified suppression zones, primarily in the northern regions of western and central Canada.
For more information, media may contact:
Canada ― Natural Resources Canada (613) 992-4447
Ontario ― Ministry of Natural Resources (705) 945-6735
Quebec ― Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife (418) 627-8609
Nova Scotia ― Department of Natural Resources (902) 424-5239
New Brunswick ― Department of Natural Resources (506) 453-2614
Manitoba ― Department of Conservation (204) 945-0516
British Columbia ― Ministry of Forests and Range (250) 387-8486
Prince Edward Island― Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry (902) 368-5286
Saskatchewan ― Saskatchewan Environment(306) 787-5796
Alberta ― Sustainable Resource Development (780) 427-8636
Newfoundland and Labrador ― Department of Natural Resources (709) 729-5282
Yukon ― Department of Energy, Mines and Resources (867) 667-8065
Territories Northwest ― Department of Environment and Natural Resources (867) 873-7379
Nunavut ― Department of Environment (867) 975-7700