Settler Fire Management

Settler Fire Management: An Examination into Wildfire Policy and Practice in Northern Saskatchewan

Over the last several decades, wildfire management in northern Canada has become an important and often controversial issue. The incidence and severity of wildfires is increasing throughout Boreal Forest regions of Saskatchewan (SK), due to a combination of climate change, historical and contemporary wildfire management practices. In Northern SK, wildfires directly impact the lives of the region’s Indigenous (Cree, Dene, Métis, Dakota) residents. In the last 5 years,  northern lobbying and protests groups have formed around wildfire controversies, describing them not as an issue of scientific versus traditional knowledge, but one of sovereignty over land and self-determination.

wildfire smoke zahara 2015
Photo of wildfire smoke near Prince Albert, SK during wildfire even in the summer of 2015. Photo: T. Zahara

This project examines the history of wildfire policy and practices in northern Saskatchewan, and how this informs wildfire issues in the present. While most research has focused on the impact of wildfires on communities, this project focuses on the institutions that support contemporary wildfire response. The purposes of the project are to:

  • Better understand the social and historical context of wildfire management policies and practices.
  • Be able to place wildfire management practices within their historical context.
  • Examine opportunities for wildfire management to address issues raised by Indigenous residents of northern SK.

This project will contribute to a broader understanding of the social and cultural dimensions of wildfire management, which may assist local organizations in developing best practices for managing fires in a context of changing wildfire activity and controversy.


The Canadian military in Prince Albert, SK, during wildfire evacuations in 2015.
This project is a part of the SSHRC- Funded Northern Exposures Research Group.