Benefits of Prescribed Fire

Cultural and prescribed fire is the planned and controlled application of fire to a specific land area. It’s a natural part of our ecosystem, which is why it’s not only ecologically appropriate to use for wildfire mitigation. It’s also one of the most cost-effective means for achieving a variety of land management objectives.

A natural, cultural, and essential phenomenon.

Fire suppression efforts have grown significantly over the last century, which has resulted in unintended consequences. By stopping fire from naturally occurring, and also limiting the time-honoured Indigenous practice known as cultural burning, our forests and other landscapes have become overgrown, exposing our ecosystems and communities to even greater wildfire risk.

We now know the natural occurrence and even the traditional application of fire by Indigenous peoples has been essential to maintaining balance in our forests. In fact, there are many benefits to ecosystems that are only achieved through the use of fire. These are the five key areas:

“We need to take a holistic view of managing fire on the landscape. This includes suppressing harmful wildfires that threaten communities and livelihoods, and it also means using planned fire as a land management tool. While it might seem counterintuitive, in many ecosystems fire is actually necessary to sustain ecosystem health, and can be used safely to help reduce the risk of wildfires.”

– Tony Pesklevits, Deputy Director, BC Wildfire Service


Public Safety and Wildfire Risk Reduction

One of the most important reasons for managing wildfires is the threat they pose to our communities, especially in recent years. The combination of climate change and continually evolving landscapes has increased the potential for catastrophic wildfires. But thanks to strategic planning and science-based implementation, prescribed fire has proven to be an effective tool for keeping our communities safe. By applying controlled, low-intensity burns during spring or fall, overgrown vegetation is safely removed and fuel breaks are created. This not only reduces the severity and impact of fires where we live; it also makes forests healthier and more resilient.


Preserving Indigenous Cultural Values

The benefits of controlled burns go far beyond just public safety. Indigenous peoples have described a long history and cultural importance of using fire as a stewardship practice on the land. Many Indigenous communities continue to express the importance of fire as a sacred and powerful element, which is why cultural burning remains a time-honoured tradition and critical skill handed down from generation to generation. It is just as much an important ceremonial practice for Indigenous cultures as it is a tool for protecting their communities and shaping the land to their specific needs.


Improved Wildlife Habitat

Fire benefits numerous wildlife species and is even required for some animals to survive. Eliminating fire from forests, grasslands and other landscapes can cause ecosystem changes that affect key species, negatively impacting wildlife populations. Controlled fire can bring back wildlife food sources, maintain areas required for travel and loafing, and bring balance to food chains and species.


Revitalized Vegetation

When fire is removed from ecosystems, they may become vulnerable to insects, invasive species, or diseases that drive out plant life. These conditions can be accelerated by the effects of climate change and, ultimately, contribute to greater wildfire risks. Controlled fire can help maintain and enhance the health of ecosystems by naturally rejuvenating the soil and opening up space for sunlight to reach overgrown areas, which allows diverse native plant species to thrive and forests to become more resilient.


Protecting Local Economies

From tourism to forestry to ranching and agricultural industries, good wildfire management can have a profound impact on our economy, and prescribed fire plays a critical role. It can help reduce risks to valuable land investments, like tree plantations, parks, old-growth reserves, and important infrastructure. As part of wildfire risk reduction projects, prescribed fire can remove fuel on the landscape, reducing fuel hazards after harvesting or clearing dead vegetation from grasslands. While this improves foraging conditions for wildlife and cattle, it also releases essential nutrients into the soil. This natural process plays a major part in supporting newly planted trees, resources for Indigenous communities, and our forestry industry. During the spring and fall, controlled low-intensity burning also helps protect our communities from extreme summer fires, allowing the tourism industry to thrive through the peak season.