Fire protection in First Nations communities
Find out more about how fire protection on-reserve is funded.
If you are a registered First Nations individual who has been evacuated from your community because of wildfires and do not have your Indian status card, Indigenous Services Canada can provide you with a Temporary Confirmation of Registration Document so you can continue to access services and benefits.
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Wildfires in First Nations communities
Wildfires are a natural hazard that can put First Nation 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. To learn more, visit Emergency Management Assistance Program: Funded projects.
Budget 2019 announced $47.7M over 5 years, starting in fiscal year 2019 to 2020, in increased federal investment to expand the on-reserve FireSmart program in support of First Nations enhancement of their capacity around wildfire management. This will contribute 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 core capital 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
- remoteness and population.
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 Plan.
Between the fiscal years 2015 to 2016 and 2019 to 2020, ISC provided an average of $33.7 million annually for fire protection services in addition to core capital funding. This included $5.3 million for fire protection services training.
Since Budget 2016, through targeted funding, the Government of Canada has supported 104 fire protection projects.
As of March 31, 2021, 85 projects are complete. Projects include:
- building fire halls
- purchasing fire rescue vehicles and firefighting equipment
- firefighter training
More information is available at Interactive map: Investing in First Nations community infrastructure under the category Fundamental infrastructure.
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 and the National Fire Safety Poster Competition for children.
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.
In 2021, ISC will be collaborating with Indigenous partners, fire expert organizations, and other interested organizations such as Tribal Councils in the development of 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 2020 National Firefighting Competition.
National Fire Safety Poster Competition
The National Fire Safety Poster Competition is an annual event sponsored by ISC and coordinated by AFAC. Held in October of each year during National Fire Prevention Week, the contest engages children and youth in spreading the word about fire safety through the design of posters or multi-media projects.
Find out more about the National Fire Safety Poster Competition.
National Indigenous Fire Safety Council Project (formerly Indigenous Fire Marshal Office project)
ISC is supporting the AFAC in developing the mandate, structure and governance for a proposed National Indigenous Fire Safety Council (NIFSC) that would fulfill a similar role to a Fire Marshal Office.
Budget 2019 provided $9.97 million over 3 years, starting in 2019 to 2020, to support the Indigenous Fire Marshal Office (IFMO) project. On May 7, 2020, the IFMO project became the NIFSC project on the advice of the project's National Advisory Committee following engagement feedback from Indigenous communities and stakeholders.
Under the proposed NIFSC, fire marshal services such as guidance on fire code establishment, inspections, fire protection training and education and fire safety programming would be provided to interested Indigenous communities.
The proposed NIFSC will help support healthy and safe Indigenous communities by:
- collaborating with existing Indigenous fire and emergency services
- designing and delivering programs and services to build and maintain capacity within Indigenous communities
- addressing gaps in Indigenous fire services