Fighting Fires: Managing Forest Fires

Many people’s attitudes toward fire have shifted dramatically over the years. Putting out fires, also known as fire suppression, was the goal for much of the 20th century. Although it was often costly to achieve, it was generally successful. Provincial and territorial agencies are responsible for wildland fire management in most forests around the world, while federal government agencies are in charge of national parks and military bases. The process of planning, preventing, and battling fires to protect people, property, and forest resources is known as fire management.

Wildland fires pose a challenge to forest management because they can be both harmful and beneficial. They can endanger communities and destroy vast timber resources, resulting in significant financial losses, yet they are a natural part of the forest ecosystem and are necessary in many parts of North America to maintain forest health and diversity. As a result, prescribed fires are a valuable resource management tool for improving ecological conditions and removing excess fuel buildup. Not all wildfires should or can be put out. Forest agencies work to harness the power of natural fire to reap its ecological benefits while also limiting its potential damage and costs.

Wildfire risk management incorporates the four integrated phases of emergency management: prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Although mitigation can be part of preparedness, we see them as two distinct phases, with prevention focusing on preventing wildfires and mitigation focusing on mitigating the effects of wildfires that do occur. We will examine these four phases in greater depth to gain a better understanding of the roles that exist within the fire management system.

Prevention & mitigation

Forest fires and climate change are connected in a vicious cycle; hotter temperatures increase the chance of fires, and forest fires emit greenhouse gases, exacerbating global warming. This implies that trying to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and therefore slowing global warming will also aid in the prevention of forest fires. 

On the other hand, reducing the number and severity of forest fires will help to slow climate change. Many aspects of wildfires are beyond our control, but many fires can be avoided. More fire bans and forest closures, as well better fire education, will be required to decrease the number of human-caused fires in a world of ever-increasing fire risks and consequences.

That innovation began with the use of technology and is continually evolving. The CFFDRS is comprised of three major components: the Fire Occurrence Prediction system (FOP), the Fire Behavior Prediction system (FBP), and the Fire Weather Index (FWI). 

The FWI is a moisture accounting system that measures precipitation, relative humidity, temperature and wind speed daily. It is a critical component in most jurisdictions worldwide and is analogous to rating the danger of a fire. The system is created to extract the most data from very little information. However, it must be calibrated prior to being used. Calibration is when you analyze the FWI output and compare it to fires and fire behavior to understand what it all means.

It is possible to predict fire behavior if fuel information is added to the equation. Fire behavior prediction (FBP) is the process of converting the FWI’s relative indices into actual units, such as fuel consumption (how much biomass is consumed by the fire), head fire intensity (the size of the flames), and the rate of spread (how quickly a fire can grow). We know that the CFFDRS works because it has contributed to people’s security and safety around the world, reducing wildfire injuries and deaths. This is done by being able to pre-deploy firefighting resources, and there is a strong correlation between areas of high fire risk and fire activity.


The cost of fighting wildfires in North America is rising. In 2017, expenditure on wildfire protection in Canada alone reached a new high of approximately CAD$1.4 billion. According to research, Canada’s yearly cost of severe weather events could reach CAD$43 billion by 2050. However, there needs to be more consistent with the balance of investment in long-term wildfire planning and prevention programs for suppressing wildfire and the recovery costs. Long-term and proactive investing in wildfire management and planning generally pays off. Public Safety Canada says every dollar that we invest in long-term programs saves approximately $6 in response and recovery costs.

However, long-term investment in programs and the prevention of fires has declined while expenditure on suppressing fires and recovery has increased, studies show. This constrains long-term wildfire prevention research and programs when they are required the most. 

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that a large number of experts are starting to retire, which means there are more public safety jobs and a greater need to invest in training. Investment is needed in programs such as a Master’s in public safety, which is intended to help participants gain a better understanding of current issues, social aspects and technologies that affect public safety practice. These programs are taught by faculty who have worked in them and are well-regarded in the field of public safety.


The most extensive wildfires in North America, those larger than two square kilometers, account for only 3% of overall wildfires, but they represent 97% of the burned areas. In other words, there doesn’t need to be a significant increase in wildfires of high intensity to cause societal issues such as evacuations, property loss or death. The best time to target and extinguish a fire that is unwanted is just after it starts. During this period, which can be brief, firefighting resources in the air and on the ground are able to blast the fire prior to it burning intensely and spreading. The length of time that window remains open is determined by the weather. It could be as little as 15 minutes if it’s dry and hot.

In an area where the things we value are few and far between, we must refrain from extinguishing them and let the fires burn. This is both economically and environmentally sound. Simultaneously, we need to focus more on areas of high value before and after fires take place so firefighters can respond to the immediate threat. Only by taking on a greater risk in some instances will we be able to reduce the possibility of significant losses in other ones. This philosophical concept is known as the appropriate response. The results will not always be anticipated. However, fire departments and the general public must recognize and be accepting of this.


Forests around the world are constantly changing. For example, disruptions caused by fire and forest insects and diseases are an unavoidable part of the forest’s life cycle. In addition, forests are shaped over time by human activities such as resource development. Those activities occasionally result in permanent forest clearing (deforestation). For most forests, amnesty is only temporary, with vegetation recovering naturally or with human assistance. Therefore, monitoring forest change and recovery is critical to forest stewardship and sustainable forest management.

In managed forests, harvesting occurs on productive sites. Recovery after harvesting is usually uniform and rapid in these locations thanks to natural regeneration or site planting or reseeding. However, a wide range of forest conditions and other land cover types can be impacted in wildfire-prone areas. Therefore, recovery after a fire disturbance is usually more variable and takes longer in these areas. 

Recovery rates also vary over time. They generally peak immediately after a disturbance event, such as a fire. This faster recovery rate is due to the flush of herbaceous vegetation after a fire. That flush is the precursor to the gradual return and re-establishment of trees.

Many governing bodies around the world appear to be happy to invest in public safety. However, an uptake of willing candidates is needed to fill these roles and deal with the ever-increasing pressure of forest fires and other emergencies. During a wildfire or another emergency, the public safety team has a diverse range of emergency, ground and air protection personnel and assets trained and equipped to protect communities, major public and private infrastructure, and resources. Here is a look at some of the public safety Canada jobs that you can pursue in this sector with degrees like the Online Master’s of Public Safety from Wilfrid Laurier university.

Lookout observer

The priority of a lookout observer is to offer early detection and accurate reporting of any potential hazards or fires. A lookout must provide continued surveillance until firefighters arrive at the scene. A lookout observer must have a sharp eye, both with and without visual aids, especially over long distances. Color vision and depth perception are required to distinguish subtle differences of various types against gray backgrounds. To withstand the rigors of climbing the lookout tower and generally living alone, they have to be in top shape and of sound mind.


Dispatchers are in charge of receiving emergency and non-emergency calls from people who are in danger. They manage the call by ensuring that the appropriate response teams are available to assist them while maintaining confidentiality throughout all interactions. Receiving emergency and non-emergency calls, addressing problems, monitoring driver logs, keeping records and dispatching appropriate team members are all responsibilities of a dispatcher. Their responsibilities may also include monitoring weather reports and, if necessary, notifying authorities.

Good dispatchers are excellent communicators, organizers and multitaskers. They must be able to coordinate schedules, answer phones, and use radio, phone, and computer equipment. Dispatchers may interact with a variety of team members on a daily basis, including drivers and transportation managers.

Nature conservation officer

A nature conservation officer works to protect, manage and improve the environment. They encourage the use of nature while increasing our knowledge of the environment around us. Their responsibilities include creating policies that have national and regional implications and setting targets within national biodiversity plans of action. 

The following job titles are available in this sector: biodiversity officers, conservation assistants, project officers, sustainable development officers and technicians. Working with others and generating interest among the general public is essential to the job. The job entails a mix of desk and field work, as well as policy planning and implementation.

Forest ranger

Forest rangers are responsible for various tasks in state and national forests. They may, for example, assist in the maintenance of campground facilities and trails and fire prevention and suppression. Some enforce laws and regulations on public lands, roads and campgrounds. 

During patrols and visits to campgrounds, they may also interact with members of the public. Some provide fire education programs, information to visitors and regulations to the general public. They also enforce these regulations, taking action when necessary. 

Forest firefighter

Forest firefighters move toward a fire’s source to extinguish it; minimize damage to the environment, workspaces, and homes; and protect potential victims such as humans and wildlife. Their role is becoming increasingly important as the number of forest fires in the summer months increases, resulting in periods of unbreathable air and stay-home orders. 

Forest firefighters may be required to work long hours in challenging and changing conditions, such as hot weather and steep terrain. They work in all weather conditions and may be stationed in isolated areas for extended periods. Individuals who are working in this occupation may face hazards such as extreme heat, falling trees and branches, smoke, strong winds and wildlife.

Forest firefighters must be physically agile and able to bend, crouch and stoop while carrying heavy equipment, in addition to working quickly on uneven or steep terrain. This job is generally physically demanding. Forest firefighters also contribute to increased awareness of the causes of forest fires. They teach individuals and organizations how to prevent forest fires while working or playing outside, resulting in fewer human-caused forest fires.