Cultural and prescribed fire

Cultural and prescribed fire is one of many land stewardship practices that can help reduce the intensity of naturally occurring wildfires while returning an integral and culturally significant process to the land base.

Introduction to Cultural Burning and Prescribed Fire

The Province's use of the term “cultural and prescribed fire” is intended to acknowledge Indigenous cultural burning as distinct from prescribed burning, while also acknowledging the intersection of Indigenous and Western fire management as both are practiced today.

The importance of fire

Fire is a natural, normal process for many ecosystems in B.C. and is necessary to maintain a healthy forest and the diversity of plant and animal life.

The history of aggressive and highly effective wildfire suppression in the Province has resulted in:

  • Significant build-up of forest fuels
  • Greater tree encroachment on grasslands
  • ‘In-filling’ of once open, dry forests

This has both increased the risk of devastating wildfires and negatively impacted biodiversity and forest health.

Cultural burning

Indigenous cultural burning has existed since time immemorial, with traditional knowledge passed down from generation to generation. In general, the term “cultural burning” refers to the intentional use of fire at a broad scale on the land that is led by First Nations or is based in First Nations’ distinct cultural values, perspectives or practices. 

While the Province does not undertake cultural burning, the Province has a responsibility to address some of the barriers to cultural burning that exist. To achieve that, in line with its commitments in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, the Province intends to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to co-develop a policy and program framework for cultural and prescribed fire that aligns with the UN Declaration and provides the foundation for a sustainable, long-term and co-managed approach.

Prescribed fire

Prescribed fire is the planned and intentional use of fire on a specific land area. It is one of the most ecologically appropriate and relatively efficient means for achieving a range of objectives. These objectives can include habitat enhancement, preparation for tree planting or disease eradication.

Prescribed fire can also contribute to achieving air quality and climate action targets by preventing large, intense wildfires and replacing them with more frequent, well-timed, well-planned low-intensity fires.

These fires can take many months to plan and are managed to minimize the chance of escape and smoke impacts while maximizing the benefits to the site. 

Read more information on planning a burn