Fire information and updates

Riding Mountain National Park


For many people, an evening campfire is the best part of camping.

  • Most Parks Canada campsites have fire pits or metal fireboxes for your campfire. You may only build a campfire in a designated fire pit when camping in a Parks Canada location.
  • Always check if there’s a fire ban
  • Keep your fire small and under control. Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Only use firewood provided by the park. In most national parks, it is illegal to collect and burn wood from the forest.

A tended fire is a safe fire! Make sure your fire is completely out before you go to bed at night or leave your campsite. Pour water over the fire to put it out. Alert park staff if you see any suspicious smoke or fire.

Fire Programs: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a BURNING question? Search through our Frequently Asked Questions for an answer. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Then ask our experts!

Fire and Nature

Forces of change shape our natural landscapes. Some forces, like the gradual uplift of mountains, act slowly. Others, such as fire, flood, windstorms, and insect outbreaks, can rapidly restructure ecosystems. Although we often view natural disturbances as destructive, they play a crucial role in keeping ecosystems healthy.

Fire as a Force of Change

Through time, fire and other natural processes have shaped ecosystems on many levels. Humans, too, have used fire for thousands of years to improve habitat for hunting game animals or to boost food production. Here are a few ways fire continues to benefit the land:

  • Creating Mosaics and Diversity Fire produces a mosaic of different ages and types of plants. Fires typically burn across the land with varying intensities and effects on vegetation due to differences in terrain, winds, and the amount of fuel present. This creates a range of habitats that support diverse wildlife.
    fire mosaic
    Fire Mosaic
  • Nourishing Soil The high mineral content in ash improves soil nutrients. This flush of nutrients, along with warm soil conditions, can increase soil microbial activity and plant regrowth. Periodic fire reduces the build-up of dead wood, branches, and plant litter. This lessens the risk of extremely large, hot fires that can damage soil fertility and result in erosion.
  • Plant Survival Plants have evolved successful adaptations for surviving fire. Some plants need fire to reproduce. Plant adaptations to fire include increased seed release, increased flowering and fruiting, fire-resistant bark and buds, and resprouting from underground root systems.
  • Wildlife Survival Animal responses to fire vary. Some animals outrun fire or go underground. In the long term, fire increases the variety of habitats across a landscape. It also increases the abundance of habitats and food sources for animals like moose, black bears, warblers, woodpeckers, and meadow voles. In some grassland areas, fire restores habitat by pushing back invading brush and trees. Fire acts as nature’s recycler, rejuvenator, and re-arranger. Vegetation killed by natural disturbance decays, releasing and recycling nutrients to other plants. Surviving plants are re-invigorated, while the open spaces that are created are quickly rejuvenated by new or recolonizing plant life. On a landscape level, fires rearrange plant communities by creating a patchwork of different ages and species. This patchwork creates habitats for more species of wildlife. This brings variety to the ecosystem, making it more resilient.
Why use prescribed fire?

Many of the ecosystems within national parks are fire-adapted. In these ecosystems, fire helps maintain forest health and biodiversity. Parks Canada uses carefully planned prescribed fire to safely restore and maintain this important ecological process.

Prescribed fires do important work that pays dividends for decades. For example, they help maintain habitats for many large mammals, particularly elk, moose, deer, wolves, and bears. Prescribed fire also reduces the threat of wildfire to communities and neighbouring lands.

What exactly do you mean by “prescribed” fire?

Prescribed fire is an intentional fire planned and managed by fire specialists. A “prescription” describes the conditions and procedures necessary to burn safely and effectively.

Parks Canada’s fire specialists consider the weather, type of vegetation, terrain, and fire behaviour when writing a prescription. They define the boundary of the fire using natural barriers, such as rivers and wetlands, combined with constructed features, such as roads and fuel breaks. Finally, the team outlines the conditions under which the prescription can be used. When these conditions are met, the team is ready for action.

How are prescribed fires controlled in National Parks?

Fire specialists use roads, trails, and natural barriers such as streams and recently burned forests to help contain fire spread. To ensure that fire does not spread outside desired areas, trees and shrubs may be cleared to supplement existing barriers.

During a burn, firefighters have firefighting equipment in place to contain the fire within the boundaries and conditions outlined in the prescription. Helicopters are used to monitor the fire’s progress. Additional aircraft, crews, and equipment are on standby to assist with control if required.

Can I visit the park while a prescribed fire is happening?

Yes. Prescribed fires are planned so they have minimal conflict with public activities. As well, prescribed fires are conducted in weather conditions that disperse smoke away from developed areas as much as possible. Although smoke may be seen and smelled from various areas, park staff plan and control these fires to ensure they do not impact visitors. However, visitors may be asked to refrain from certain types of backcountry activities in key locations during certain phases of the prescribed fire.

Parks Canada provides advanced warning prior to, and during prescribed fires as well as up-to-date information on wildfires and potential impacts. Visitors and residents can call the park at (204) 848-7275 for fire updates or Important bulletins.

How long does it take to see the benefits of fire?

You can see the benefits of fire almost immediately. Soil receives an instant boost of nutrients and new types of vegetation sprout within a few weeks of the fire. A variety of herbs, shrubs, and tree saplings flourish, providing food for moose and hares. Fallen trees that die because of the fire provide habitats for small mammals and insects, which in turn attract other predatory species. For several years after the fire, the diversity of plants and animals found within burned areas is usually much higher than that of mature forests.

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