Wildland fire is an important natural disturbance in Ontario’s forests and grasslands. However, wildland fires can pose a risk to public safety and values such as:

  • communities
  • property
  • timber supply
  • infrastructure

We are responsible for fire management on Crown land in Ontario.

Wildland fire management includes:

  • preventing, mitigating, detecting and responding to wildland fires
  • protecting public safety and values
  • using wildland fires and prescribed burns to meet objectives such as:
    • ecological sustainability
    • resource management
    • risk reduction

Reducing the risk posed by wildland fires is a shared responsibility. To raise awareness of wildland fire risks, and to promote and implement wildland fire risk-reduction strategies, we work with:

  • municipalities
  • Indigenous communities
  • commercial stakeholders
  • industrial stakeholders

We also work with the national and international wildland fire management and academic communities to develop, share and adopt best practices and new technology to ensure wildland fire management in Ontario is effective and efficient.

Wildland Fire Management Strategy

The Wildland Fire Management Strategy (2014) provides direction for how the ministry manages wildland fire across Ontario.

The goals of the wildland fire management program are to:

  • prevent loss of human life and injury
  • prevent and mitigate losses including economic and social disruption
  • promote understanding of the ecological role of fire
  • use fire to benefit resource management

The goals of Wildland Fire Management Strategy are supported through five objectives, which form the foundation of our wildland fire management:

  1. Prevent
    The threat to people and values is diminished by reducing the number of human-caused wildland fires.
  2. Mitigate
    Property owners and land managers take action to mitigate the undesirable impacts of wildland fires on their property or other values.
  3. Respond
    All fires are assessed and receive an appropriate response.
  4. Understand
    The people of Ontario are aware of and support the ecological role of wildland fire.
  5. Apply
    Wildland fires and prescribed burns are safely and effectively used to reduce wildland fire hazards and meet ecological and resource management objectives.


Fire management organizations develop relationships and agreements with key partners so that fire response can be delivered co-operatively and effectively.

Every municipality is responsible for the suppression of grass, brush and forest fires within its limits.

To better serve the people of Ontario, the ministry may enter into fire agreements with municipalities within Ontario’s fire region. Since 1998, municipal agreements have developed an integrated fire management program that includes:

  • suppression
  • planning
  • prevention
  • training

The northwest region is north and west of Sault Saint Marie, the east region is east of Sault Saint Marie, areas south of Owen Sound and Ottawa are outside the fire region.

The agreements ensure the overall “least cost” in determining who should provide fire protection services on specific lands. They also provide full cost recovery for suppression of fire for both ministry and municipalities.

How we respond to wildland fires

In Ontario, each wildland fire is assessed and receives an appropriate response based on the situation and condition of the fire. We then:

  • respond as quickly as possible to fires posing an immediate threat to high values, such as communities or infrastructure
  • manage fires to limit negative impacts and costs when values are not threatened or when the environment could benefit

Fire response system

To support the protection of public safety and other values, the ministry maintains a system of firefighting resources to allow appropriate response to wildland fire.

This system includes a number of fire bases and response centres as well as aircraft and equipment.

Emergency Operations Centres:
Our Emergency Operations Centre in Sault Ste. Marie monitors the provincial fire situation and coordinates fire response operations by setting provincial priorities and allocating resources.

Regional Response Centres:
Regional Response Centres in Dryden and Sudbury are responsible for daily fire operations within their fire region.

Fire Management Headquarters and attack bases:
At the local level, fire response is delivered from Fire Management Headquarters and attack bases. Forward Attack Bases are set up during periods of escalated or anticipated fire activity in a particular area, and can be portable or temporary facilities

Initial attack system

The initial attack system is the first effort of a firefighting crew to assess a fire and complete the tasks needed to manage a fire.

The initial attack steps are:

  • alerts: fire rangers crews are given a daily alert status
  • fire is reported: from ministry observation, calls from the public
  • dispatch: quick response time is key
  • en route to fire: maps and GPS used to locate fire
  • arrival at the fire: fire size estimated
  • initial attack: crews begin management action
  • stages of control include the following:
    • not under control (NUC): describes a wildland fire that either has not yet been suppressed to the point where it is being held or a wildland fire not responding or only responding on a limited basis to suppression action, such that perimeter spread is not being contained
    • being held (BHE): indicates that with currently committed resources, sufficient suppression action has been taken so that the fire is not likely to spread beyond existent or predetermined control boundaries under prevailing or forecasted conditions
    • under control (UCO): describes a wildfire that has received sufficient suppression action to ensure no further spread of the fire
    • out (OUT): the final stage of control is OUT, which describes a fire that has been extinguished
    • being observed (BOB): describes a fire which is being monitored to allow the natural ecological benefits of wildland fires to take place as they would in the natural environment without human intervention
  • debriefing/retrieval: reports are made and equipment retrieved

Large fires

Occasionally, a fire may escape initial attack and become large. Additional fire fighters, aircraft and equipment are brought into those situations from across Ontario, and from other parts of Canada, if required.

Ontario shares wildland firefighting resources with other provinces every summer, depending on the weather and fire activity.

Forest fire emergencies

The Forest Fires Prevention Act (FFPA) authorizes the Minister to make an order to declare a forest fire emergency where such emergency exists (Section 23(1)). These orders can be declared to invoke extraordinary measures to mitigate the effects of a forest fire emergency and are implemented when an individual forest fire or a cluster of fires warrants special measures.

Orders implemented for forest fire emergencies are put in place to:

  • ensure the safety of people and firefighting personnel, and other emergency service personnel
  • facilitate evacuation actions if and/or when necessary
  • facilitate safe and effective forest fire suppression activity

During a forest fire emergency, there may be local restrictions in place for public safety including, but not limited to:

  • restricted use of roads
  • road closures
  • restricted access to and use of Crown land
  • evacuations

Stay informed

To stay informed of any forest fire emergencies and restrictions in your area:

  • listen to your local radio
  • check local newspapers
  • follow us on Aviation Forest Fires and Emergency Services (AFFES) Twitter @ONForestFires
  • visit our forest fires activity web page