Forestry and Arts Science. The Problem of Forest Fires

Emergency Response Systems Planning

The extent to which what is known about natural hazards and how to respond to natural disasters can be applied to forest fire management.

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The rise of many cases of wildfires occurring in forests has been of great concern to many governments of different nations. These fires threaten the extinction of the natural forests and as such they must be prevented in all ways possible. Fire hurts all the living things that live in the forest as most of them die which is a major threat to the future survival of particular species. These forest fires are a result of both natural and human activities. Many commentators have equated severe forest fires with death and destruction. It is important to prevent human-caused fires by instituting fire management strategies. The emergency response given to natural disasters can also be applied in the prevention of these forest fires (Dillon, 1961).

Federal Emergency Preparedness and Response System

In Canada, the public health agency of Canada established Federal Emergency Preparedness and Response System to respond quickly to any natural disasters. A federal policy for emergencies requires that dealing with emergencies should start with an individual and then successive levels of the government. The observation here is that the occurrence of an emergency force people to run for their safety and then they seek assistance from the government if necessary.

The type of response here requires proper coordination. To prevent the emergence of many cases of forest fires there should be a system of emergency preparedness and management activities. This is because most of the forest fire outbreaks have not been controlled because of the lack of unpreparedness when responding to emergency cases.

It is not easy to put off forest fires if proper mechanisms are not put in place where each of the possible disasters should be given its special approach. For instance, it is not easy to put off forest fire because of the thick forest cover which prevents proper navigation. The emergency of new threats in the world has prompted many countries to develop National Emergency Response Systems to the disasters. Canada is one of the nationals that has instituted this system to respond to natural or deliberately caused disasters. This Agency is supposed to coordinate the broader federal response to any disaster.

Resource management: forest fires

The management of naturally ignited forest fires is a very important step towards resource management as well as conserving the ecosystem that provides the habitat for both plants and animals. This means that policies developed towards natural hazards management can be used equally to respond to forest fires. Forest fires similarly occur in most cases like natural disasters and the effects range from affecting the plants and animals in the ecosystems as well as human beings. The forest fires just occur abruptly and as such, they require emergency response. Most of the policies have proposed prevention as a suitable option in response to forest fires. In this policy alternative methods are give that might prevent the outbreak of forest fires. The scientific method of thinning is one strategy that has been found to restore the beauty of the forests as well as prevent the spread of fire (Robert, 1999).

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As in the health sector where the common phrase prevention is better than cure can also be applied in the Forestry sector where methods such as thinning can be used to prevent the occurrence of forest fires. However, thinning can not only be used to prevent a fire forest. Other methods such as a selective tree or shrub removal can also be used to prevent forest fires. Although efforts to suppress forest fires have become very difficult in recent years as there are no specific policies put in place so to respond to such emergencies. The current approach to be given to the prevention and control of forest fires is similar to how we respond to natural disasters. Forest fires remain a critical ecological concern as fires remain a social issue that requires greater individual and government involvement.

The importance that accrues from the forest necessitates the need to conserve and preserve our forests from any fire outbreak. Forest fires as such should be treated as being destructive to the ecosystem that gives anchorage to the plants and animals.

Like any department, the federal fires response should be allocated the necessary resources and finance to enable it to suppress the forest fires. Despite the few measures taken the total number of forests burned has been increasing each year. This consequently affects the economy as a lot of resources and money are used to prevent and control forest fires. There is a need for people to build their homes away from the forests this will prevent the loss of human lives and property through the forest fires.

This can also be done by building with fire-resistant materials and keeping flammable materials away from these structures.

The federal agencies objectives

The federal agencies should set, should assist landowners to reduce the cases of fire risks. The local communities need to be charged with greater responsibility that would promote the prevention and control of forest fires outbreaks. Good leadership among the governments of nations must support innovation and adaptive management to achieve success in forest fire management. Planning fire-adapted ecosystems require a proper understanding of the local forest type, the fires history, potential fire behavior, past management actions, land use changes availability of water, and relative risk to human communities.

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The uncertainty associated with these factors can be best addressed through adaptive management (Agee, 1997).

All hazards should have the scope and framework within which they operate to ensure an appropriate response to any emergency. It provides connecting arrangements to hazard-specific plans and procedural guidelines for emergency staff. There is a need to provide technical advice, assistance, alerts, and warnings to the general public to create overall emergency preparedness (Grant, 1990)

Based on the recent emergencies including SARS, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, 1998, ice storm, the Canadian emergency management community has realized the importance of the government involvement in the response framework.

The lessons learned promptly the creation of new departments that would provide remedial action. This department will better the emergency response to any form of disaster. Each federal minister is allowed to develop and implement emergency preparedness and management activities. Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada had developed the NERS so that Canada is prepared and able to respond to all emerging, imminent, or occurring national emergencies and threats to ensure the protection and safety of Canadians. As different threats and emergencies arise, either as the result of natural or deliberately caused events or disasters, the NERS is designed to coordinate federal actions and provide an integrated and complementary national response (Ontario Dept of Lands and Forests, 1960).

The forest fires like any other disaster require fast management, especially from the health sector.

The emergency management Ontario (EMO) for instance took a precautionary evacuation of at-risk residents of first nation’s communities in North Western Ontario. The reason for evacuating people is part of risk management to the forest fires as well as reducing the health dangers that might result from smoke.

This type of response is commonly applied in natural hazards such as earthquakes. There were more than 320 active forests fires in Northern Ontario of which 25 were in the far North Boreal Forest (North of Lake Superior).

The evacuated community members were taken to a place where the basic needs were provided for them. Canada is a country that gains economically from the forest industry. Forest fires have been known to cause economic degradation.

Forest fires management has been found t be very important to redeem the many cases of forest fire outbreaks.

For instance, the southern boreal in Eastern Canada supports a fully developed forest industry and active fire suppression (Richardson, 1928)


The Canadian Forest fires have been termed natural particularly in the boreal zone which has been faced with forest fire for millennia. The Canadian fire management practices have greatly been influenced the general response to the disaster. Lightning accounts for 35 percent of fires that occur in Canada. Research has it that 85% of the total area burned is due to lightning fires (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 1980). The lightning fires generally grow larger since detection and initial attack are delayed.

However sophisticated management programs in all the provinces have been found successful in controlling forest fires. The federal government operates fire management programs in many of the national parks. All these fire management agencies in Canada are autonomous and they have better organizational structures and approaches to disaster management (Beverly, vol.26). This implies that they have the necessary resources to carry out all these activities. Fire suppression is shared between these agencies. Response to any form of natural disaster requires a well-developed system of transport and communication, to respond in the fastest way to such a disaster Canada has set aside many aircraft that respond very fast to any incident of fire outbreak. It is prudent to mention that forest fires can be prevented through corporate responsibility. This is because the forest fires are practically continuous and what is important is to put in place innovative strategies (Stevenson, 1928).


  1. Robert J. B. (1999) Guardians of the Wild: a history of the Warden Service of Canada’s National Parks. Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada.
  2. Richardson, A.H., (1928) Forestry in Ontario. Ontario Department of Forestry
  3. Dillon, J.C., (1961) Early Days. Ontario Department of Lands and Forests.
  4. Grant, R. (1990). Fire Patrol – Bearskin Air. Northern Ontario Business.
  5. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 1980. Historic Fire Information from the Annual Reports, 1900 – 1969. Sault Ste Marie: Aviation & Fire Management Centre.
  6. Stevenson, Col. H. I.1928.Aircraft in Forestry: containing Air Operations for Forest Fire Protection. Forest Service, Dept of the Interior. Ottawa
  7. Ontario Dept of Lands and Forests. District History Series. 1963 – 1967.
  8. Ontario Dept of Lands and Forests. Sylva: Lands and Forests Review. Vol 1 – 15. 1948 – 1960.
  9. Tallon, Beverly. Fighting Forest Fires by Air. WCAM Aviation Review. Vol. 26. No. 3.
  10. Agee, J.K. (1997). Fire management for the 21st century. Island press, Washington DC
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