Common menu bar links

Transcript for The Burning Question

Scenic shots of the mountain national parks

Parks Canada, mandated to protect and care for our most cherished places, are faced with a great challenge.

How can we minimize the risks fire poses to people while respecting the vital role fire plays in mantaining a healthy ecosystem?

Should fires be put out, lit, or left to burn naturally?

That is… The Burning Question.

Hi there. My name is Simon Hunt and l'm the fire management specialist l've been working in fire management for 16 years.

Hello. My name is Gregg Walker.

l'm a fire and vegetation specialist.

That means l look after forest health and some fire management-related things as well.

My name is Warren Daniluck.

l work with Parks Canada in fire management and l'm the initial attack crew leader.

The response normally in the past, as far as Smokey the Bear has been, ''Forest fires are bad! We should put them out!'' Forest fires aren't bad.

lt's only when fire… comes into conflict with people is there a problem.

You know a lot of folks see the post fire landscape as being very destructive but l see it as an agent of renewal, a new beginning; and it's a process that's been occurring for thousands and thousands of years.

We know looking at the scientific background that fire occurs here naturally.

And there are all these ecological processes that are linked to that: restoration of the soil, growth of new plants in those new environments, seeding in of trees, new wildlife habitat....

So it's a natural renewal process.

Parks is very concerned about ecological integrity and really what is natural.

Now if we interfere with a fire and put that fire out, that certainly is not natural.

But if you let it go, that is natural.

Where does fire management come into this?

Well, fire management comes into a fire when you decide, well, ''We kind of need to do something?'' Because maybe it s endangering someone's home, maybe it's endangering the highway.

So we kind of interfere with things...

and fire is a risk to these things so we've got to manage those.

What seems to be happening over the years is we keep suppressing the same fires over and over agan.

And by continuously suppressing fire in the long run we ultimately pose ourselves for failure.

Because eventually, especially with climate change and accumulation of forest fuels, it becomes more difficult to suppress fire.

On a really busy fire season we can end up having multiple fires burning but we only have so many resources to be able to manage them.

So by allowing some fires to burn, in some strategic areas, we're being proactive towards our future, which will give us more management options down the road when we have another bad fire season.

The more thoughtful approach is one that says, 'What is the best thing for the forest and the ecosystem and what is the best thing for the people surrounding this fire?'' The burning question remains: How should fire be managed?

Should fires be put out, lit or left to burn naturally?

lt's a complex question.

Well for us the answer is all three which considers the needs of both people and nature.

Scenic shots of fire ignition and fire crews working in mountainous forest

Parks Canada logo.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada, 2010.

Canada wordmark.

Return to video