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 $47.7 million 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.

In addition, Budget 2022 announced $39.2 million over 5 years, starting in 2022 to 2023, to support wildland-urban firefighting equipment and training in First Nations communities.

Funding for fire protection

Fire protection is an essential service that can mean the difference between life and death. Fire protection services include:

First Nations band councils manage fire protection services on reserves. ISC provides annual funding to First Nations 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:

First Nations band councils can use these funds to run their own fire departments or to contract fire protection services from nearby communities. Some First Nations may choose to use fire protection funding on other priorities.

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 or enter into agreements with provincial bodies may also have access to 9-1-1 services.

Between 2016 to 2023, ISC provided an average of $48.3 million annually for fire protection. This included annual averages of:

First Nations band councils may request funding for capital investments or firefighter training though their First Nation Infrastructure Investment Plan.

ISC also provides funding each year to the National Indigenous Fire and Safety Council to organize a number of awareness and training events, including the National Firefighting Competition.

First Nations Fire Protection Strategy, 2023 to 2028

The First Nations Fire Protection Strategy 2023 to 2028 is the first co-developed by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and ISC. It was introduced at the inaugural AFN First Nations First Responders Gathering May 17 to 19, 2023.

The strategy also reflects input from First Nations technical organizations, tribal councils, First Nations leadership, National Indigenous Fire Safety Council and other fire service professionals.

The 2023 to 2028 strategy builds upon previous strategies developed in 2010 to 2015 and again in 2016 to 2021. It expands upon them in 3 ways:

The strategy also promotes the use of time-tested fire safety equipment that is known to save lives such as smoke and carbon monoxide alarm installations, fire extinguishers and home sprinkler systems. Some other examples of what the strategy promotes include:

For fiscal year 2023 to 2024, ISC announced $10 million in new funding to support the objectives of the Fire Protection Strategy. First Nations across Canada used this new funding to address community-identified fire safety priorities. This included:

National Firefighting Competition

Sponsored by ISC and organized by the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council, 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

On May 7, 2020, the Indigenous Fire Marshal Office (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.

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