Wildfire is a natural and crucial element in maintaining the integrity of Nahanni's boreal forest ecosystem. The park's goal is to maintain a natural wildfire regime, while ensuring the protection of visitors.
In order to prevent unnatural wildfires, a ban on open fires may be imposed when conditions become so dry that accidental fire starts are probable. Fire ban notices will be posted through-out the park, including all points of entry. During a fire ban, only charcoal briquettes and other non-spark generating flames such as portable gas stoves will be permitted for food preparation.
When wildfires are burning, the smoke generated can become very thick, especially in the confined river canyons below Virginia Falls. This situation has the potential to cause serious health problems for any person with a respiratory disorder. In the past, during periods of extreme wildfire activity, it has been necessary for park staff to close the river. During these rare events, visitors have been held up at staging points such as Virginia Falls, and Deadmen Valley. In 1982, conditions were so severe that visitors had to be evacuated from the river by aircraft. Park managers at Nahanni prefer to take these extreme measures in order to allow the natural process of wildfire to continue.
Fireboxes are very effective for low impact camping. Their use will not leave a fire scar on the land. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own firebox or firepan, although the park does have a limited number that are available for loan on a first-come, first-served basis. Check with park staff in Fort Simpson or at Rabbitkettle Lake if you would like to borrow one.
Fire in Canada's National Parks