Fire Information and Updates

Riding Mountain National Park

Fire is a natural, essential part of the ecosystems found in Riding Mountain National Park. Fire restores and maintains the health of the environment while providing many benefits.

Fire creates openings in the boreal forest for the sun to reach the forest floor and stimulates growth from seeds and roots. Dead and decaying plant and tree matter becomes mineral-rich ash and converts nutrients for new plant life to grow. Fire renews and restores grasslands by pushing back the spread of aspen forest into natural grassy areas.

The first national park wardens were hired in 1909 — mainly to put out fires. This early view of fire created an imbalance in the park’s forests and grasslands. Parks Canada today works to sustain fire-dependent ecosystems while providing fire protection. The safety of people, protection of property and neighbouring lands is always the first priority. Prescribed fires help return fire and its many benefits to the landscape in a safe and controlled way.

What you can do:

FireSmart is a nationwide program designed to help protect people, property and neighbouring lands from wildfire. Home and business owners can take simple steps to help reduce the risk from potential wildfires. Small actions around a property can help reduce fire spread and improve a home and community’s resilience to wildfire damage.

Learn how to assess property risk from wildfire using the FireSmart program by visiting: www.firesmartcanada.ca.


2024 Prescribed Fire Information

A prescribed fire is a carefully planned and managed fire ignited by trained and experienced fire management personnel. A prescribed fire is used to imitate the low to medium-intensity fires that would naturally and regularly occur in an ecosystem that is adapted to fire. Parks Canada uses prescribed fires to help restore and maintain ecological integrity and biodiversity, promote ecosystem conservation and restoration, reduce the risk of wildfire to nearby communities, and protect cultural heritage.

Prescribed fires lessen the build-up of plant materials that can fuel wildfires. This includes living or dead organic matter such as trees, grasses, leaves, roots, and fallen branches. Removing these plant materials can help to reduce the intensity and severity of wildfires, slows their spread, and makes them easier to control or extinguish.

Prescribed fires are scheduled based on what we know about historic fire patterns in the area as well as the biology of native plants and wildlife and their life cycles in relation to environmental conditions such as seasonal changes and climate change. An optimal window is determined that will allow for the best conditions that are needed to achieve ecological maintenance or restoration and/or wildfire risk reduction goals.

COMPLETED Jackfish Creek Prescribed Fire

Date: April – May 2024

Location: Lake Audy and Strathclair Trail area

Size: Prescribed fire will be applied to 2000 hectares of grasslands and aspen parklands to form guards (blacklining), followed by 2000 hectares of boreal mixed-wood forests later this spring. 4000 hectares (ha) = 40 square kilometers.

Additional details: There are several benefits to the Jackfish Creek prescribed fire in the Lake Audy and Strathclair Trail area, including maintaining and restoring grasslands, improving forage for bison, elk, and deer, modifying the distribution of age groups within boreal mixed wood forests, and reducing the risk of a high-intensity wildfire happening in Riding Mountain National Park.

Lake Audy and Strathclair Trail area
Some areas will be closed for short periods to ensure visitor and staff safety

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!


How long will closures be in place?

Closures will be in place during active burning operations which will be split into guard burning and main unit burning. The range of time a closure remains in place is highly dependent on weather conditions and could range from one day to a two-week closure. When the Incident Commander deems the area safe, it will be reopened as soon as possible.

Is the smoke from the prescribed fire in Riding Mountain National Park expected to be visible or impact roads and highways?

Smoke will be visible while burning is taking place and in the following days, a reduced amount of smoke may be present as crews work on the fire line. Weather conditions and forecasts are monitored, and every effort will be made to make sure the smoke impact is minimal.

What is the guard burning or blacklining happening this spring?

Guard burning takes place in grassland areas in the spring when snow and moisture under the forest canopy prevent fire from spreading into the forest. The burned areas of grassland act as a fire barrier and are used when the main fire is lit to prevent fire spread outside of the burn unit.

Where will the bison herd go during fire operations? How will it affect the herd?

Separate prescribed fire treatments will be applied to the northern and southern sections of the Bison Enclosure. The guard burning this spring will only target grasslands and not the mixed wood forest in the enclosure. Bison are well adapted to react to fire, and they have plenty of room to avoid operations. This prescribed fire will benefit the bison herd by improving the health of the grasslands and encouraging rapid regrowth of forage.

Campfires

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.

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.


 

To ensure prescribed fires are done safely, what steps does Parks Canada take?

Safety is always Parks Canada’s top priority when planning prescribed fire. At Parks Canada administered places, prescribed fires are planned and managed by well-trained, professional wildland fire management specialists and are only set under specific, pre-determined conditions. Members of Parks Canada’s National Fire Management Program carry out extensive planning and preparation before a prescribed fire is lit, including evaluating the landscape and assessing weather conditions and wind speed.

During a prescribed fire, the team will have firefighting equipment in place to contain the fire within the pre-set boundaries. Helicopters or drones may be used to monitor the fire’s progress. Every prescribed fire plan includes a contingency plan that describes how a potential escape will be managed. For example, some plans may identify a list of additional aircraft, crews, and equipment that would be on standby to assist with control, if required.

After a prescribed fire is completed, how long does Parks Canada usually monitor the site?

Immediately following a prescribed fire, fire management personnel monitor conditions closely. Depending on the location of the prescribed fire, monitoring may be done by in-person observation, remote cameras, drone surveys, or flights over the area with thermal scanners.

Long-term monitoring will also be done. Fire specialists will visit the burn site for many years following a prescribed fire to assess whether the long-term objectives of the burn have been met. Long-term objectives may include habitat creation for wildlife, plant species restoration, and community protection.

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