For millennia, fire has played a leading role in shaping our national park landscapes through lightning and aboriginal-set fires. Like avalanches or floods, this natural process stimulates new plant growth and contributes to a mixture of habitats that supports a variety of animal species.
During much of the 20th century, fires were seen as a dangerous element that destroyed wildlife and detracted from scenic beauty. The first national park wardens, called Fire and Game Guardians, were hired in 1909 in Rocky Mountains Parks primarily to prevent and extinguish wildfires.
By excluding fire we’ve:
Created uniform landscapes with less plant variety and fewer places for wildlife to live.
Allowed an overall build-up of fuel for a fire, which creates the potential for fast-moving wildfires.
Put our national parks at risk of large fires that can threaten communities, transportation networks and neighbouring lands.
Created a landscape more susceptible to insect and disease outbreaks.
To restore the important role of fire, Parks Canada now uses prescribed fire, which was first used in Banff National Park in 1983.