Canada’s devastating wildfire season prompts calls for new approach

Published: 16 August 2023

The wildfires that ravaged Canada this summer have some experts calling for a more aggressive approach than the country has applied in the past. 

This year, nearly 30 million acres have burned across Canada. In eastern provinces such as Quebec, where blazes are less common, wildfire agencies that are equipped to fight fewer and smaller fires were largely unprepared for the circumstances.

Historically, Canada’s approach to fires has been largely reactive and mostly concerned with immediate extinguishment of active fires, said Mohammad Reza Alizadeh, a researcher with McGill University’s Department of Bioresource Engineering.  

More recently, however, the country has taken steps including increased specialization of fire agencies, improved communications systems and strategic use of water-bombing from the air, he told The Hill. The more fire-prone regions of the country have also shifted their thinking to a more preventive approach and a perspective that acknowledges the value of controlled burns.

“This shifted the focus to early detection and prompt response, exemplified by the adoption of controlled burns to create firebreaks and reduce fuel accumulation. Simultaneously, a more balanced and enlightened perspective has shaped by a growing recognition of fire’s ecological role and its effect on biodiversity,” Alizadeh said. “This paradigm shift changed away from strict fire suppression and toward an inclusive approach to fire management.”

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