Craig Richardson

While wildfires were once a concern reserved for remote forested or grassland regions, wildfire season has quickly grown in severity, length, and reach across Canada.

As Canadians prepare for another hot and dry summer, Craig Richardson, Senior VP and Chief Claims Officer at Definity, is sharing his insight into where most wildfires are taking place, how your community may be affected, and ways you can reduce your community’s risk.

Q: Why are we experiencing more wildfires in Canada?

A: Wildfires require specific conditions to start and spread and many factors indicate more Canadians will be at risk in the future:

  • Climate change. Less precipitation, smaller snowfalls each winter, and extended periods of hot and dry weather are causing longer and more severe fire seasons.
  • Lack of education. The risk of wildfires is growing faster than our knowledge about them, meaning most people aren’t aware of how they can help reduce the risk of a fire starting. 

Q: How do I know if I’m at risk of a wildfire?

A: Densely forested regions are at a much greater risk of wildfires, including those in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec. 

However, after a winter of below-seasonal precipitation and record-breaking high temperatures across the country, more communities are at risk in 2024. Here are a few ways you can measure your level of risk:

  • Your region’s climate conditions. Regional climate patterns, like low snowfall, lasting drought, and high heat can contribute to severe wildfires.
  • Your region’s fire bans. If local fire authorities declare a fire ban, it’s likely because weather conditions are favourable for a wildfire to start, and a seemingly harmless campfire could start a grass or forest fire. Take these bans seriously, as they can make a big difference in preventing a wildfire in your community.
  • The type of vegetation in your region. Certain plants and trees burn easier than others — like evergreens, which contain highly-flammable resin. Broadleaf plants are far more fire-resistant, so areas with a high concentration of these plants are at a lower risk.
  • Your community’s infrastructure. Homes surrounded by sidewalks or constructed with metal or concrete can help slow the spread of a wildfire. However, communities surrounded by forests or constructed with wood are much more likely to fuel a fire.

Every year, wildfire season gets longer and more severe. Because of lower precipitation levels and hotter summers, it’s more important than ever to prepare for a wildfire.

Q: How can I help prevent wildfires?

A: While some wildfires occur naturally, you can take active measures at home and around your community to prevent manmade wildfires:

  • Follow local guidelines and fire bans. Before starting a fire (whether it’s lighting a few tiki torches or a campfire), always check in with local authorities to see if a fire ban has been declared. 
  • Keep an eye on all outdoor fire sources. Whether it’s a lit cigarette butt, patio heater, barbecue, or backyard fire pit, always keep an eye on all flames on your property and make sure they’re fully extinguished before stepping away. In the event of a fire ban, avoid lighting any flames outside.
  • Keep your yard clear of flammable materials. Lawn clippings, dead branches, and dried leaves are the perfect fuel for a wildfire. Keep up with your yard work and make sure your property is clear of dead vegetation.

Most of Canada is at risk for wildfires and we all play a role in preventing them in the first place. Always follow local fire bans, keep a close eye on any outdoor heat sources, and keep your yard clear of dry vegetation.

Q: How can I protect myself if my community is threatened by a wildfire?

A: In the event of a wildfire, always prioritize safety and take the following steps:

  • Keep an eye on the news. Check-in frequently with your local radio and television news stations for any updates related to evacuation orders and air quality warnings.
  • Follow the guidance of local authorities. If authorities recommend evacuation, leave the area immediately and follow evacuation routes.
  • Prepare an emergency kit and evacuation plan. Keep a bag packed with some money, a portable cellphone charger, a first-aid kit, candles, and bottled water. Identify emergency exits in every room and review the plan with your family — just in case.

Much of the country is at risk of wildfires, but by planning ahead, you can help prevent wildfires from starting, reduce damage, and keep your loved ones safe. Reach out to your group’s broker to discuss your insurance options and make sure your home and valuables are covered.

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