Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Revisiting Canada’s historic 2023 wildfire season

By Brittani Schroeder   

Features Canada wildfires editors pick firefighters First Responders wildfire

Photo: Toa55 / Getty Images

In 2023, almost everyone in our country was impacted by raging wildfires in some way. Thousands of firefighters from coast to coast battled day and night to protect Canada’s communities. I live in southwestern Ontario, and though I couldn’t see the wildfires burning through the province’s northern landscape, I could smell them each time I walked outside. My thoughts were on you—the firefighters battling those flames.

The 2023 wildfire season in Canada left its mark as the worst on record, according to data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. By Oct. 2023, over 18.5 million hectares had already succumbed to the flames, and the scale of this devastation had unfolded across 10 provinces and two territories. The toll on human life was tragic, with eight firefighters making the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

The recent wildfire seasons have underscored the risks and challenges faced by those on the front lines and highlighted the need for ongoing support, improved safety measures and resources for those combating the infernos.

“Things do, unfortunately, need to burn in the forest—it’s just the nature of things. The problem we’re running into is that humans are starting to inhabit those landscapes.” – Chief Albert Bahri, Yellowhead County Fire Department


Earlier this year, I connected with members of Yellowhead County’s (YC) fire department in Alberta. Sitting west of Edmonton, the county is 22,238 square kilometres in size—approximately half the size of the province of Nova Scotia. At the end of April 2023 and for two months straight, YCFD was fighting aggressive wildfires that were moving quickly through their region, with the help of Alberta Wildfire crews and many others.

Yellowhead County’s fire department (YCFD) has been trained in what they call the initial attack of a wildfire. In past situations, after that initial attack, they would pass firefighting operations off to the Alberta Wildfire teams. In 2023, that simply wasn’t possible. As YC lit up in flames, so did many other regions in Alberta and British Columbia, and people and resources were stretched thin.

While I was speaking to Chief Albert Bahri and his team, he shared his views on the annual occurrence of wildfires. “Things do, unfortunately, need to burn in the forest—it’s just the nature of things. The problem we’re running into is that humans are starting to inhabit those landscapes. That’s where the danger comes in, and we need to make sure those residents, and their properties, are protected.”

The team at YCFD learned a lot throughout the 2023 wildfire season, among the lessons was how to perform sustained action on a wildfire for long periods of time. You can read more of YCFD’s story and their key takeaways on page 10.

As always, I invite you to pitch me your ideas, send me your latest news and accomplishments, or connect with me just to have a conversation. You can reach me at

Until next time, happy reading and be well.

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