Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy (2016-2021)

Table of contents


The Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy outlines areas of mutual collaboration between Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) to promote fire protection on reserve. Commonly called the Fire Protection Strategy, it was first established for 2010-2015. With AFAC's support, the strategy was refined in 2015 to be implemented April 2016.

The renewed strategy aims to improve fire protection over the next five years by identifying activities and expected results. INAC will continue to work in partnership with national fire expert organizations and other public or private stakeholder organizations.

A working group of representatives from INAC and AFAC will oversee the strategy. These two partners meet in February and August each year to evaluate the strategy's progress against annual results and plan activities.

Although the 2010-2015 First Nations Fire Protection Strategy made progress in reducing fire related risks, both INAC and AFAC recognized a need to have a more focused approach for:

The updated Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy identifies opportunities for INAC and AFAC to work together to improve fire protection in First Nation communities in 2016-2021.


This strategy promotes initiatives that focus on fire prevention in order to support First Nations communities on reserve in reducing the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries, as well as losses to critical infrastructure. Experts agree the first step in minimizing the risk of fire is through knowledge and awareness of fire safety.

Fire prevention is especially important in First Nation communities on reserve with limited fire protection services due to remoteness, reduced population, or limited capacity to sustain a fire service or Municipal Type Service Agreement. "Underserviced" sites are identified as those populated reserve sites without fire prevention programs and limited fire protection services or assets. These sites should be targeted for cost-effective fire prevention programs. With this in mind, efforts for fire prevention awareness will first focus on households, followed by the community, and then local fire officials such as firefighters. This will not only increase fire prevention awareness in these communities, but will also improve their capacity for fire protection.

First Nations Chief and Council manage fire protection services on reserve. They are responsible for making decisions regarding fire protection services under the annual core capital funding that they receive from INAC. First Nations may choose to establish their own fire prevention services, or may contract fire protection services from nearby communities. The participation of First Nations communities is essential to the success of the strategy. The AFAC Board of Directors and members represent many communities from each region and comprises of regional fire specialists with direct experience in fire protection on reserve and direct access to First Nation communities.

Along with the core capital funding provided to communities, INAC also funds complementary activities to promote fire prevention awareness, including regionally led initiatives such as the Regional Smoke Alarm Awareness projects.

The strategy outlines activities in 4 Pillars:

Pillar 1: Partnership for First Nations fire protection

INAC proposes ongoing collaboration with First Nations and First Nations organizations to improve community infrastructure on reserve. The strategy identifies priority areas for collaboration between internal and external partners aimed at improving fire protection with proactive measures. Efforts will focus on the key elements outlined below:

Pillar 2: Fire prevention education

Fire prevention programs in First Nation on-reserve communities help reduce fire incidences, damage and deaths. Fire prevention education and awareness is key to saving lives. Strengthening fire safety education and awareness across First Nation communities is a central component of effective fire protection strategy. Efforts will focus on key prevention activities:

Pillar 3: Community standards

Community standards include a range of items, from adhering to building and fire codes to informing community members of fires. Working together, partners will focus on key elements: 

Pillar 4: Fire service operational standards

With input from AFAC and an expert panel, INAC has updated its Level of Service Standards for Fire Protection Services. The renewed service standard defines the level of service that INAC is prepared to support in terms of fire prevention programming, training and capacity development, and capital investments.

The renewed Level of Service Standards places a greater emphasis on fire prevention and capacity development, code compliance, and partnerships. It provides clarity on the requirements for building and maintaining effective and scalable fire services based on established Fire Service Assessments and Community Risk Assessments. It encourages Band Council Resolutions for fire prevention programing, as well as fee-for-serve fire protection and inspections. The foundation of the Level of Service Standards for Fire Protection starts with fire prevention awareness, graduating to increased fire protection capacity on-reserve, followed by considerations for investments.

The refined Level of Service Standards will include an overarching policy piece with a proposed continuum for service while:


The health and safety of First Nation communities is a priority for INAC, and fire protection is considered an essential community service. To support this goal, INAC and AFAC will continue to work together on delivering concrete results under the 4 Pillars. Efforts will first target households, then communities, and then fire officials.

INAC will engage other partners, such as other government departments and national fire expert organizations, to focus efforts for ensuring the safety and well-being of First Nation communities.

This strategy may be updated over time as INAC and AFAC meet to plan joint activities and report on the successes and challenges in its implementation. Activities will be vetted by the Joint INAC-AFAC Working Group and agreed to by partners. The timeline for the renewed strategy is five years, beginning in April 2016.

Annex A: Schematic

Table 1: Implementing key elements of the Strategy
Key element of the Strategy How it is being implemented
Partnership approach
  • Partnership for implementationž
  • Share and replicate regional best practices
  • Pilots, campaigns, training, workshops
  • First Nations
  • Other government departments
  • Other potential partners (Public/Private/NGOs)
  • Agreements
  • Working groups
  • Shared educational materials
  • Capacity assessments
Next steps
  • Joint Fire Protections Strategy approved for implementation in April 2016
Table 2: Key elements of each pillar of the Strategy
Pillar of the Strategy Key elements
Pillar 1: Partnership for First Nations fire protection
  • Collaborate with partners to help improve fire protection (fire prevention and fire suppression) by sharing best practices and related fire safety information
  • Identify partners to reproduce fire protection best practices linked to pilot projects, campaigns or training initiatives across the country
Pillar 2: Fire prevention programs
  • Continue to promote fire prevention programs nationally
  • Continue to coordinate with fire prevention partners to promote and enhance fire prevention education, particularly in identified underserviced communities
Pillar 3: Community standards
  • Promote existing fire protection standards nationally
  • Continue to explore the options for compliance of building and fire codes in First Nation communities
  • Provide technical support for First Nations Fire Departments working to enhance their Fire Underwriter Survey Rating or Grading
  • Continue to support First Nation community driven initiatives
Pillar 4: Fire service operational standards
  • Implement INAC Level of Service Standards for Fire Protection
  • Jointly promote fire service capacity within communities
  • Jointly promote recruitment and retention of First Nation firefighters through partnerships
  • Continue to support community operational standards for fire protection
  • Encourage First Nations governance to address fire safety deficiencies identified during inspections

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