NEW FOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
History to Current Day
Out of the ashes of the wildfires that occurred in 1904 saw the creation of the Fire Patrol in Newfoundland and Labrador. Forest fire suppression in the Province officially began on June 15, 1905 with the creation of the Forest Fire Act. This act created a need to protect the provinces forest resources from the threat of wildfire as the province also passed the Pulp and Paper act on the same day thereby creating a future industrial demand for sustained fiber. Forest protection legislation, including protection from fire, now falls under the Forestry Act (RSNL 1990 CHAPTER F-23) and Forest Fire Regulations. Over the years considerable progress has been made with respect to the resources available and our ability to fight wildfires including: advances in equipment; new technology and developments in fire science, training and staffing levels.
The Forest Fire Management Program in the Province is comprised of three essential components:
- i) a
climate monitoring network to collect weather information from around the Province
to determine fire
hazard and manage fire risk;
ii) a network of resources around the Province comprised of trained personnel to provide ground and aerial
suppression of wildfires; and
use of fire prevention education and mitigation measures to reduce the
occurrence and impact caused by wildfires.
To conduct the above the Province has twenty-six automated weather stations; three lightning detection units; five Canadair CL-415 water bombers; twenty-seven wildfire response vehicles; a provincial forest fire equipment bank and hose processing facility; and eight permanent and eighty-eight seasonal forest fire protection staff. Annually, a number of personnel achieve the National standard for exchange as firefighters or Incident Management Team personnel under the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) Mutual Aid Resource Sharing Agreement (MARS).
Forest Fire Statistics
The typical forest fire season for the island portion of the Province begins on May 1st on the island of Newfoundland and May 15th in Labrador. The forest fire season remains in effect until September 30th. Although the official forest fire season runs from May until September, data is collected by the Forest Service for the entire year and presented in annual reports. Over a twenty-year period there has been an average of 140 fires and 34,210 ha burned annually. The actual number of fires and area burned on an annual basis for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador can be found at www.faa.gov.nl.ca/forestry/forest_fires/fire_stats.
i) With over 90% of fires, particularly on the island of Newfoundland, being human caused wildfire prevention continues to be a number one challenge. Making people more aware of safe burning practices and more aware of the hazards of wildfires is critical in reducing human caused fires. Many fires occur in the early spring or fall and coincide with increased activities on or near forested areas. Mapping fires by cause, season and location can help target wildfire prevention strategies to specific groups and audiences when and where needed. For example, if an area has a history of cultural burning that includes burning of grass in the spring, specific messaging can be provided to those involved in this practice during that time of the year to provide information on the risks and myths associated with burning grass.
ii) Given most fires are human caused and that many can occur along the wildland urban interface (WUI), the second challenge is reducing the impact that these WUI fires on human life and health, property and infrastructure. Beyond wildfire prevention messaging, there is a need for on-going efforts to reduce fire risk and the impacts caused by fires in the WUI through educational programs like FireSmart Canada. For example, in Labrador where the majority of fires are caused by lightning, we can educate communities on the benefits of becoming FireSmart (the equivalent of FireWise in Canada) and take additional steps if needed to reduce fuels around these communities.iii) The third challenge is related to process improvement and on-going efforts to look at ways to improve fire prevention and suppression strategies and the methods used and make the most effective use of available resources.