National Wildland Fire Situation Report

National Wildland Fire Situation Report

Archived reports

Current as of: September 15, 2021

Current active fires
Uncontrolled Being Held Controlled Modified Response
7 96 145 20
2021
(to date)
10-yr avg
(to date)
% normal Prescribed U.S.
Number 6,224 5,358 116 32 44,740
Area
(ha)
4,182,542 2,593,335 161 3,205 2,270,232

Priority fires

Weekly national situation reports will resume Spring 2022.

Interagency mobilization

Fire activity in the spring was generally low across Canada, and the National Preparedness Level (NPL) remained at Level 1-2 through most of May and June, with a brief increase to Level 3 between June 10 – 16 when more than one province or territory saw significant fire activity. Moderate resource-sharing occurred during that period before returning to NPL 2 later in the month.

In July NPL rose to Level 3 then 4 briefly before reaching Level 5 on July 11, indicating national mobilization was heavily committed and increased measures needed to be taken 4 to support active agencies, where it remained until August 30, 2021. After August, there were no longer outstanding requests for firefighting personnel at a national level. The National Preparedness Level continued to decrease through September as wildfire activity began tapering off.

Due to an extended period at National Preparedness Level 5, the United States was unable to respond to requests for wildland firefighting resources by active agencies in Canada. Mexican, Australian, and South African personnel were brought in to British Columbia, Ontario, and Manitoba to assist when domestic exchangeable resources were unable to keep up with the demand.

Covid-19 continued to be a widespread health risk that resulted in some international partners being unable to assist due to ongoing restrictions. Vaccinations, PCR testing, and all planned precautions were undertaken by all parties involved.

This year saw the Government of Canada receiving requests for assistance from British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario. These requests included federal GIS support, and Canadian Armed Forces providing support for evacuations in Ontario and British Columbia, supporting the movement firefighting personnel in British Columbia, as well as Type 3 firefighting personnel to assist both British Columbia and Manitoba.

Weekly Synopsis

Following a quiet fire season last year, 2021 has been one of Canada’s busiest fire seasons in recent years. Nationally, there have been 6,224 fires to date (compared to 3,665 at the same time last year). The total area burned is over 4.18 million hectares (compared to 236,956 hectares at the same time last year). The 10-year average for area burned over the same timeframe is just over 2.59 million hectares.

This year’s fire season began early with dry spring conditions and high fire danger ratings in the prairies. Communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba saw spring evacuation alerts and orders all through March to May. During this period, the city of Prince Albert was put on evacuation notice due to nearby wildfires.

British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario saw well above average fire seasons in terms of area burned, with all remaining agencies reporting below or about average areas burned in 2021. British Columbia has now recorded the third worst fire season in terms of area burned, behind 2018 (nearly 1.355 ha burned) and 2017 (more than 1.216 ha burned), with the fourth worst on record as 1958.

The eastern provinces experienced relatively quiet fire seasons, with exception of Quebec experiencing some early spring fires. To the west and north of Ontario most provinces saw periods of active fire with Northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia accounting for 90% of the area burned this year, and 60% of the number of fires.

Prognosis

We will not be providing a weather prognosis this week. Weekly national situation reports will resume Spring 2022.

2021 In-Review

Drought continued to intensify and spread outward from the southern Prairies, encompassing the area from western Ontario into British Columbia. Extreme Drought developed first in southern Manitoba over the winter and early spring and appeared briefly in southern Saskatchewan by the end of May. After a brief downturn, drought intensified once again, with Extreme to Exceptional Drought affecting patches of southern British Columbia, the three Prairie Provinces, and western Ontario by the end of July. By this time, a large patch of southern Manitoba was in Exceptional Drought – a once-in-fifty-year or rarer occurrence.

In late June, a heat dome settled over North America including most of western Canada. This slow-moving high pressure ridge resulted in record-breaking temperatures across North America including that of the Village of Lytton on June 29, 2021 at 49.6 degrees Celsius, an all-time Canadian record and a higher value than the city of Las Vegas has ever seen. The heat and lack of precipitation intensified the drought, resulting in widespread extreme fire danger ratings across most of Western Canada and into Ontario. As this feature slowly moved eastward, it gradually lost intensity but weak Pacific storm systems followed that generated widespread lightning but little rainfall. This succession of features resulted in major fire outbreaks between British Columbia and Ontario during the first half of July. Alberta escaped the worst of this activity, with only brief active periods. Drought was less intense in the Territories, but conditions were dry enough to enable fire activity, but shorter-lived and less widespread than activity in the western Provinces.

Wildfire began tapering off in the second half of August, with heavy rain occurring in active fire areas of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. British Columbia began receiving sporadic showers, but in lesser amounts, reducing fire activity at a gradual pace, with this pattern continuing into September.

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