Fire protection in First Nations communities
Find out more about how fire protection on-reserve is funded.
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Wildfires in First Nations communities
Wildfires are a natural hazard that can put First Nations communities at risk. Wildfire response services are led by provincial and territorial emergency management organizations. To find out what to do before or during a wildfire, or to see the current wildfire risk in your region, visit Wildfires.
Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) annually budgets $16.5 million in funding for wildfire management services and provides funding to support First Nations wildfire prevention and mitigation activities across the country.
Budget 2019 announced $47.7M over 5 years, starting in fiscal year 2019 to 2020, to expand the on-reserve FireSmart programs and support First Nations capacity around wildfire management. This contributes to First Nations' community resiliency in the face of this ever-increasing threat. Find out more about FireSmart program funding and how to apply.
Funding for fire protection
Fire protection is an essential service that can mean the difference between life and death. Fire protection services include:
- operating and maintaining fire halls
- purchasing fire trucks, firefighting tools and equipment
- training and educating firefighters and community members
First Nations band councils manage fire protection services on reserves. ISC provides funding to First Nations on an annual basis that can be used for fire protection services as well as fire insurance. The level of funding is determined by regionally based formulas which take into consideration a number of factors such as:
- the number of buildings on a reserve
First Nations band councils can use these funds to run their own fire departments or to contract fire protection services from nearby communities. If a First Nation decides to contract with a nearby community, it is the responsibility of the First Nation to manage that agreement. First Nations that contract with local municipalities may also have access to 9-1-1 services.
First Nations may choose to use fire protection funding on other priorities. The amount of funding each First Nation plans to spend on fire protection is outlined in its annual First Nations Infrastructure Investment Plans and Report.
Between the fiscal years 2016 to 2017 and 2020 to 2021, ISC provided an average of $37.3 million annually for fire protection. This included annual averages of:
- $7.1 million for capital investments, for example, fire trucks, fire halls, etc.
- $13.9 million for operations and maintenance of assets
- $5.2 million for firefighter training
- $11.1 million in additional targeted funding provided in Budgets 2016 and 2017
ISC also provides funding each year to the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) to organize a number of awareness and training events, including the National Firefighting Competition.
Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy
In April 2016, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, now Indigenous Services Canada, and the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) announced an updated 5-year Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy with an emphasis on increased collaboration between the department and AFAC.
Although the 2010 to 2015 First Nations Fire Protection Strategy made progress in reducing fire related risks, both the department and AFAC recognized the need to have a more focused approach for:
- partnership for Indigenous fire service
- fire prevention education
- community standards
- fire service operational standards
For more details, see the 2016 to 2021 Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy.
ISC is currently collaborating with the Assembly of First Nations and other Indigenous partners as well as fire expert organizations to co-develop a renewed fire protection strategy.
National Firefighting Competition
Sponsored by ISC and organized by AFAC, the National Firefighting Competition is an annual event aimed at celebrating and training First Nations firefighters.
Each summer there is a series of regional competitions, where teams of firefighters from First Nations communities across Canada have a chance to qualify for the national competition. Qualifying teams are chosen from British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nunavut and the Atlantic region to demonstrate their skills and abilities at the national competition.
At the national competition, teams compete in a series of challenges ranging from rolling hoses, fast coupling drills, and replacing a burst length. Throughout the competition, participants also attend training sessions to improve their skills.
The National Firefighting Competition is a chance to showcase new firefighting techniques and technologies, exchange best practices between communities and increase awareness about fire prevention.
Find out more about the 2022 National Firefighting Competition.
National Indigenous Fire Safety Council, formerly Indigenous Fire Marshal Office project
Budget 2019 provided $9.97 million to support the Indigenous Fire Marshal Office (IFMO) project. On May 7, 2020, the IFMO project became the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council on the advice of the project's National Advisory Committee following engagement feedback from Indigenous communities and stakeholders.
The National Indigenous Fire Safety Council focuses on providing program and capacity supports, research, incident reporting systems and fire prevention and public education to interested First Nation communities.