According to Natural Resources Canada, over the past 25 years an average of 7,300 forest fires occurred annually across the country. The total area burned varied but is estimated to be 2.5 million hectares per year—nearly half the size of Nova Scotia.
While it is normal for Canada, which has nine per cent of the world’s forests, to experience wildfires during the summer months, in the past five years they have increased to about 8,000 per year and have caused unprecedented devastation for many Canadian communities, especially in British Columbia and Northern Alberta. Fire season is arriving earlier, and the intensity and overall numbers are higher.
The Canadian governments are spending about $1 billion annually fighting wildfires. However, indirect costs may rise to several billion dollars a year as a result of property loss, damaged infrastructure, business and industrial shutdowns, evacuations, health-related expenses, and economic losses in a variety of sectors including tourism, forestry, and energy.
Extreme heat, prolonged drought and an increased build-up of communities in formerly unpopulated areas are major contributing factors causing longer and more severe wildfire seasons. According to meteorologists and environmental experts, the amount of forest burned by wildfire is projected to double by 2050 due to climate change.
What Causes Wildfires?
Wildfires can be started in a variety of ways, but the two main causes of wildfires are natural and human.
Natural Causes of Wildfires
Natural wildfires are almost always caused by lightning strikes, which can produce enough heat to easily ignite leaves, trees or other organic material, especially in dry conditions. Lightning is also usually accompanied by strong winds that can turn a spark into a raging fire. Fires caused by lightning represent 45% of all fires in Canada, but because they occur in remote locations and often in clusters, they represent 81% of total area burned.
Natural conditions that make it more likely for a wildfire to start also increase the risk. With the forecast for longer and hotter summer months in years ahead, the frequency and severity of wildfires will increase as a result of long-term climate change factors.
Human Causes of Wildfires
In Canada, 55% of all fires are caused by humans. They occur in more populated areas and are usually reported and extinguished quickly. Human-caused fires can be classified into accidental or incendiary fires. Some of the accidental causes include unattended campfires, smoldering cigarettes, debris burning, sparks from equipment, fireworks, and in recent years, ‘gender reveal’ parties. Incendiary causes include arson and illegal or unauthorized burning.
Knowing how to put out a fire is an important skill that may help prevent a wildfire from starting in your area.
How Can I Protect My Property from Wildfires?
While wildfires are hard to predict and control, there are some preventive steps that you can take to protect your property:
- Remove dead vegetation from trees and bushes from your property. Dead vegetation provides the perfect fuel for a fire to spread quickly. Removing it will help decrease the chances that a fire will spread to your home.
- Move firewood away from your house. Having firewood or other combustible materials near your home increases fire risk.
- Clear gutters of twigs and leaves. Wildfires spread quickly and having twigs or leaves in your gutters provides the perfect fuel needed for the fire to spread quickly and close to your home’s walls.
- Ensure your home’s roof uses class A fire rating materials. While they will not protect you against all fires, they will delay ignition and can withstand fire for longer compared to other roof types.
How to Recover From Wildfire Damage to Your Property
Wildfires spread fast and can cause major damage to your property and home. They can lead to significant damage to the structure of your house and even cause destruction of the foundation. Wildfires can also cause secondary damage throughout your home as a result of odour and soot damage to personal contents, appliances, carpets, furniture, walls, ceilings, roofs and windows.
If you do experience wildfire damage to your home or business, ServiceMaster Restore is ready to help. We will assess your property quickly and work with you to restore what can be restored.
Our team is backed by over 65 years of experience in fire damage remediation, and our restoration experts will help you get your life back to normal as quickly as possible. Call 1-800-RESPOND to reach our disaster response center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.