History of Fire

We loved fire. We never feared it. We respected fire. We never got scared of it. We need fire.

As shared by Nklawa – Storyteller from the Upper Nicola Band

Fire is a natural, normal process in many ecosystems and is necessary to maintain a healthy forest and the diversity of plant and animal life. Many plants and animals have not only adapted to fire but actually depend on it.

Indigenous communities have in many ways been leading wildland fire mitigation and prevention in Canada since time immemorial. Over the ages, cultural burning on the homelands shaped the lives of humans, plants, animals, and Mother Earth herself. Through repeated burning practices, the Indigenous Peoples of the land were able to shape their own environment to their own specific needs.

However, a history of aggressive and highly effective wildfire suppression in the Province has resulted in a significant build-up of forest fuels, greater tree encroachment on grasslands, and, ‘in-filling’ of once open, dry forests in areas of our Province. This has both increased the risk of devastating wildfires and negatively impacted biodiversity and forest health.

In Indigenous Communities, fire use became illegal and nearly forgotten.

As each fire cycle is missed, the chaos of nature takes over. Forest fuel builds up, as well as dead, over-aged, overstock, diseased, and bug-infested wildlands. When a fire burns in the wildland during unwanted times of the year, a wildland fire becomes very dangerous.

The controlled use of fire is needed to bring back balance to the forest and protect our communities. Indigenous knowledge and practices, forest science, and prescribed fire can bring back the fire our landscapes and communities need to thrive.