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 (Quote from page 10, Blazing the Trail)

History of Fire

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.

Quote from page 7, Blazing the Trail

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.

Quote from page 7, Blazing the Trail

BC’s History of Fire Governance

This infographic is based on the work of UBC researchers Drs. Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz, Shannon M. Hagerman and Lori D. Daniels conducted from 2018 to 2021. It represents the views of fire governance from 19 wildfire and forestry experts and over 150 documents, including Ministry of Forests Annual Reports, provincial and federal strategies, independent wildfire reviews (e.g., Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia), Research Branch reports, and provincial wildfire legislation. It was further developed by a team from the BC Wildfire Service and the First Nations Emergency Services Society in 2023. The original graphic was created by Nadia Picco at UBC Studios, and the version presented here was developed by Site Partners. We acknowledge there are multiple histories and perspectives of fire governance.

Read the full article, Transforming fire governance in British Columbia, Canada: an emerging vision for coexisting with fire, to learn more.

Living with Fire Documentary by SIFCO

SIFCo is a non-for-profit community forest cooperative located in the West Kootenays. They have produced a 30 minute informational video called ‘Living with fire’ to help educate the public about the history of fire and some of the FireSmart principles that homeowners can use to lower the risk of structure loss during a wildfire event.

Living with fire
Era of Megafires

The Era of Megafires

Produced by North Forty Productions, The Era of Megafires is a 60-min presentation by renowned research ecologist, Dr. Paul Hessburg. Over several years, the presentation has travelled to over 120 communities throughout the Western US and British Columbia. Join Dr. Paul Hessburg as he takes a deep dive into the natural role of wildfire on our western landscapes, why recent wildfires are increasing in size and severity, and what we can do about it.