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NIFSC releases free digital tool to help communities prepare for wildfires

September 5, 2023
By National Indigenous Fire Safety Council

Image: National Indigenous Fire Safety Council

The National Indigenous Fire Safety Council (NIFSC) has released a new digital tool to help communities better prepare for and manage their wildland urban interface (WUI) fire risk.

The new Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Community Preparedness Digital Tool, created by the University of Waterloo and commissioned by the NIFSC, identifies the various roles community members play and what they need to do before, during, and after a wildfire. In all, the tool covers 18 distinct roles, including residents, leaders, and emergency personnel.

The WUI tool is accessible, free to all, and available on the NIFSC website: indigenousfiresafety.ca/en/community-preparedness.

“Our goal was to develop a practical tool that breaks down the numerous roles and their responsibilities, essentially providing a step-by-step guide to prepare for and manage wildfire risk,” said Blaine Wiggins, senior director of the Indigenous Fire Marshal Service (IFMS), the delivery arm of the NIFSC. “This was developed with Indigenous communities in mind but can be helpful for any community at risk of an interface fire. We invite all communities to make use of this tool to better prepare themselves.”


How the tool works

Accessed from either a cell phone or desktop computer, the WUI tool uses a graphic format that groups related roles together and uses icons illustrated by Anishinaabe Onyota’a:aka artist Tsista Kennedy. Visitors click on an icon for a specific role to find lists of tasks for before, during and after a wildfire.

Roles include:

  • Residents
  • Local leaders
  • Emergency Operations Centre roles including Communications, Coordinator, Liaison, Outreach and
  • Information Officer and external liaison
  • Advisors on the environment, agriculture, health, and transportation
  • Emergency responders such as internal emergency responders, local fire department, ambulance, police and wildland firefighters
  • Evacuation roles such as Evacuation Centre, Coordinator, Liaison, Communications and volunteers.

Development of the tool

The tool was developed based on the research study WUI Fire Risk in Canadian Indigenous Communities completed in June 2023 by E. Weckman, K. Senez, B. Southern and A. Winter of the University of Waterloo’s Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering.

The project has put a practical wildfire planning tool into the hands of WUI communities across the country, while adding to the body of research related to First Nation fire safety in Canada. The authors noted the continuing need for new forms of data collection and research that include Inuit and Métis communities as well as First Nations off-serve populations.

Links to the WUI tool, slide decks and the study WUI Fire Risk in Canadian Indigenous Communities can be found at indigenousfiresafety.ca/en/community-preparedness.

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